Fish (June 2008)

Date of Performance: June 14, 2008
Venue: Shank Hall, Milwaukee, WI, US

My first time seeing Fish was kind of a disappointment.

It was more like gefilte fish or lutefisk than the Babel fish I'm recurrently told he is; or in other words, the poetic bubbles that are supposed to oxygenate from his gills were smothered to a point of asphyxiation.

Ordinarily, Shank Hall is a venue that proves to have great acoustics. Somehow or another, Fish was - for the most part - inaudible. If I had to put my finger on it, I'd say the sound engineer failed him on this night. He mixed this as if it were your average, run-of-the-mill garage band. For those who know a bit about this progressive envoy, the reason his music draws so much attention is his delivery. If you cannot hear him, then what's even the point in seeing him live?

The instruments were just too loud. The keyboards were terribly distorted whereas the bass guitar and drum pedals put out an overwhelming - daresay obnoxious - drone. I had to take a timeout just to secure a pair of earplugs. Not too much later, I moved from my coveted spot in front to a vacant cubicle in back. When all was said and done, the one person who was to be heard so clearly that you could hear a pin drop was confined inside an impenetrable wall of sound that was so opaque; it would have made Han Solo's encasement look like a cakewalk to escape.

There was improvement to this ailment as the night went on. Truth be told; he was at his best in the encores. Believe it or not, the song I liked most was the not-so-sappy love song, "Cliché." What may have saved him from an extended stay in purgatory was the fact that fans coaxed him with claps to amend his encore with an ancillary cycle. He should be praised for giving spectators what they deserved and synchronizing it with the soundman's sudden growth spurt. Then again, Fish's main set finished well under two hours, which is bloody short when you consider the propaganda that precedes his performances.

As for the music selection, it was an equal mix between the Marillion album Clutching At Straws and his most recent solo efforts. There may have been other selections thrown in for good measure but the sound was so deafening at times; it'd be extremely hard for me - or others around me - to confirm. [Well, "Cliché" and "Fellini Days" and the Sensational Alex Harvey Band's "Faith Healer" -ed.]

In regards to the tour, this stop was special. It marked the date that Chris Johnson finally caught up with his brood. Rewind a few days and their rhythm guitarist had trouble procuring clearance for takeoff. So Frank Usher had to cover for his parts in the midterm. Not letting him off the hook easy, Fish poked fun at Johnson for missing the boat as far as acquiring authorization on his Visa. Out of his control, he couldn't leave home without it and for the record; I'm not talking about a poorboy's MasterCard. He needed these official papers to work and roam. [According to Fish, Chris shares a name and birthdate with someone on watch list... -ed.]

As an aside, Johnson is the splitting image of Pete Trewavas. For this reason, something fishy may have happened when Derek W. Dick put his crew together. I wonder if there was nepotism or if King Neptune brought Johnson into the band subconsciously because this shredding guppy looked like his chum. Whatever the case may be, his razzing was less like that of a bandmate and closer to the bullying you'd expect from an older brother.

Coming back full-circle, I hope it doesn't seem as if I'm saying the emperor has no clothes or that Aquaman's aquarium has poor filtration. It's obvious the big guy is a big deal, because he has the "it" factor. Not to mention, he mesmerizes people with the effectiveness of a shiny lure. Generally speaking, there is something hypnotic and psychosomatic about him.

All that starts with his princely appearance. In regard to his imperial attire, a towel is part of his garb. It's not for wiping sweat. He uses it as more of a stately cape. As the event dragged on, he ditched the towel and eventually filleted himself down to an A-frame. When he did, it became apparent that he was heavily tattooed with royal seals. He didn't have any large graphics on his body but his flesh was riddled with silhouetted pigments in the shape of bantam barbs and spindly orbs.

While he comes off as if he's nobly arrogant and ornery, he must love his fans. In one instance, he came into the crowd and spent a lot of time mingling with the plebes. Besides the hecklers, he responded dotingly to every disorderly outburst. He may have rebutted them with sarcasm but he was attentive to the needy people nonetheless.

He also told funny and introspected stories. They all seemed to have unmentionable twists, which he didn't hesitate to share. He even took credit for the Stonehenge prop in Spinal Tap, which no joke; is permanently integrated into the backdrop of this proghouse.

Additionally, this Scot was a likely candidate for Touretts syndrome. He said the "eff" word more times than London Boss Harry spouted out on his way to that Flemish fairytale city. [In case you're scratching your head, a reference to the Ralph Fiennes movie In Bruges]. Amidst his cussing, Fish spit loogies upon the linoleum of his soapbox. It was so much foul-mouthed behavior that George Carlin might be so inclined to call it in for censure. And in case you're wondering, the penalty consists of diluted dishwasher liquid and castile soap in a paper cup followed by plenty of sudsy gargling.

By the way, I may have spotted an intoxicating reason for his adolescent conduct. Rather than Gatorade or a glass of water, he got his refreshment elsewhere. When he wasn't busy with lyrical gesticulations and body gestures, he took a shot of whiskey and swigged from his own personal bottle of wine. As fate would have it, there would be no tea for this Scotsman. Yet, something tells me that he would later accept an Irish coffee with his continental breakfast.

Personally, from my perspective, it didn't seem that fans were really all that bothered by slurred speech or aural interference. I submit into evidence the fact that they sang along with every tune and prior to the concert; someone actually convinced the barkeeps to play his music over the loudspeakers.

With all the boisterous chatter drowning out the material, very little of Fish's eloquent utterances could be heard. To be frank, the average angler didn't seem to care one iota as long as they had a nibble. It was enough for them to be in the presence of this progressive lush whether his highness was onstage or signing autographs. In the end, they'll take him any way they can and that's the most stoic kind of following any art form, icon or nekton, could achieve.

As for me, I'll sit at home with the lyrics spelled out for me to read, and only let the music go once the stereo has been scrupulously attuned to a state of audible libretto.

Added: June 29th 2008
Reviewer: Joshua "Prawg Dawg" Turner
Artist website:
Hits: 2422
Language: english

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