Fish, April 10th & 13th 1999
Utrecht & Amsterdam, The Netherlands
By Jan-Jaap de Haan

Acoustic Sessions

At the end of February Fish had come to Holland to present his new album, Raingods with Zippos to the fans. Less than two months later, he returned to Holland again, to do some small promotional gigs, organised by The Company Holland. I visited two of them, in Utrecht and Amsterdam. They were very different gigs.

The one in Utrecht was organised in a cellar of a pub, which was too small for the 150 people that managed to get a ticket. The ceiling was almost to low for the large Scotsman, but nevertheless the atmosphere was great. During the gig Fish simply walked to the bar to get some drinks for the band.

The Amsterdam gig was originally organised in the small stage (upstairs) of Paradiso, but eventually took place in the big hall, although only 200 tickets were sold. To create some atmosphere, tables were arranged, and it was almost like visiting a club from the 30's, listening to music by candlelight. Despite this, I think the hall was too big for this small amount of people and as a result the atmosphere was a bit strange, at least in the beginning.

The gigs themselves were more or less the same. Major difference was the fact that the new guitar-player, John Wesley (known as support-act for Marillion), started the show in Amsterdam with a couple of his own songs (among these: Waiting for the Sun, The Day Is Not Yet Gone and Ordinary Man , from his new album Emperor Falls), whereas he only played one song in Utrecht in the middle of the set (when Fish took the opportunity to get some drinks). The second gig Fish' voice suffered a bit from a bad cold and lots of promotion in the days before, but in Utrecht his voice was great (quit smoking, man!).

To the concerts now. Since the same setlist was played, I will mainly review the Amsterdam-gig here (since I was able to write things down, because I was seated comfortably!).

The gig started with keyboard-player Tony Turrell (from The Positive Light) entering the stage, playing the wonderful piano-intro to Tumbledown . The rest of the band, being John Wesley and a guy called 'Don Johnson' on acoustic guitars and female singer Elisabeth Antwi on backing vocals, joined him and Fish entered the stage. In Utrecht he was wearing army-clothes, but in Amsterdam he was dressed as a gentleman (excuse me).

After Tumbledown Fish stepped down from the stage to shake hands with people, introducing himself personally to the audience: "Hi, I'm Fish, how are you?". After this he went on with Somebody Special , which I really liked, in special because it 'suited' the atmosphere with the tables and candlelights in Amsterdam. I love the double acoustic guitars. After this, someone shouted: "Are you going to shake all our hands?", but funnily enough Fish understood "Are you going to shave all our heads?" and answered: "Wait, until I come to shave your pubic hair". A funny story about shaving followed, which isn't to be printed here, due to explicit contents.

A Change of Hearts (which was 'a great hit in Lithuania, as well as the west of Poland') was next. Another lovely song, where Fish' and Elisabeth Antwi's voice seemed to match very well. An unexpected song was next: Goldfish and Clows . I hadn't expected such an electronic track in an acoustic set, but John Wesley did a great arrangement, which gave the song a completely new feeling. In the middle it developed into Brother 52 , which almost turned into a gospel-song, mainly because of Elisabeth Antwi's backing vocals. John Wesley has a very 'American' guitar sound, and I think this fits to these two tracks like gloves.

Again a love song was introduced, this time a song that 'has always been meant to be a duet', which happened to be Just Good Friends . Still one of my personal favourites, not the least because of the great lyrics.

At this point it was time to put Elisabeth Antwi into the spotlight. She sang two songs, Live Life and Precious Time and received a warm applause for this. She sings in a very easy-going manner, it's like she has been born singing this kind of songs.

Fish re-entered the stage explaining how he and Elisabeth met in the Marouatte Castle, where they only had a couple of hours to compose a track. Incomplete was the result. Opinions are divided on this tragic lovesong, but I love it.

After this, Fish sat down on the stage and asked for silence, since he wanted to share some of his experiences in Bosnia with us. He even got angry on a photographer how took a picture of him during his story. He had asked everyone twice to stop flashing and start listening to this story. The photographer obviously didn't know Fish is not a man to play with. Nevertheless this turned out to be a very emotional story about mines on the hills where the Olympics Games were organised once. No other song could follow than Tilted Cross , which also contains very emotional and personal lyrics about the problem of mines. The song was followed by Lady Let It Lie , which I liked much more in this version than the original. It was less 'poppy' and of course didn't feature a children's choir.

The next song was dedicated to 'Bill and Monica playing sax (sex?)' and was called Chasing Miss Pretty . It was the first time I heard the track, since it only appeared on the Kettle of Fish-album, which is mainly a 'best-of'. It's a nice upbeat song, but not much more than that. Fish stepped into the audience and cheered everyone up again after the aforementioned ballads.

At this point Gentleman's Excuse Me was mentioned on the setlist, but it wasn't played on either evenings.

Fish now told the audience about his re-newed friendship with Marillion and told us that he even shared the stage a couple of nights before, with a certain guitarist we might remember from a long time ago. Sugar Mice followed in a marvellous version. This is one of the very few Marillion tracks both Fish and Marillion play live, and it's very difficult to compare those, but I have to say that this long, acoustic version of the song is one of the best I ever heard.

Time again for a little party. Out of My Life followed and sounded great with acoustic guitars. Like Somebody Special and Lady Let it Lie , I liked this version much better than on the original tour and on, for example Fish Head Curry.

An upbeat-version of Lucky ended the official set (although Internal Exile was mentioned on the list) and was dedicated to the unemployed miners in Britain. Although I don't think it is as strong as Internal Exile , this song suits very well to end the gig.

After a few moments Fish returned for an encore which turned out to be a part of his recent epic Plague of Ghosts . This track has already mistakenly been called Plague of Goats and Plague of Gods, but Fish stated that this doesn't mean that he's a Satanist. (By the way, I recently saw an advertisement in a story where they presented RainDOGs with Zippos).

The short part of Plague of Ghosts was made up of Raingods Dancing and Make it Happen , which were great closers for the night.

After the gig a stage-interview took place, mainly because there was a TV-crew of the Dutch station RTL-4. Some 'fans' almost fought to be the first to ask questions, and to be honest, I didn't think these were really interesting. But as ever, throw in the right penny and you get a flood of stories from the Scotsman, so it turned out to be quite entertaining in the end.

Finally Fish returned to stage to sing Flower of Scotland , the Scottish anthem, all alone. It was great night and I didn't regret the fact that I had seen this concert twice. This show was the opposite of the last show I saw, which was the Sunsets-tour. That one was heavy, a real rock 'n roll show, this one was subtle and emotional. This completely different set-up gave Fish the opportunity to play some more romantic songs. Although different I liked it as much as I liked the electric-set last year, or maybe even more.

I do hope some of these romantic moments will stay in the set when Fish will return this autumn. I can also think of some great songs that can be done together with Elisabeth Antwi, like Raw Meat , Sunsets on Empire or maybe even some tracks from Clutching ('I'm still drowning...')....



Somebody Special
Goldfish and Clowns / Brother 52
Just Good Friends

Elisabeth Antwi:
Live Life
Precious Time (Utrecht only)

Tilted Cross
Lady Let it Lie
Chasing Miss Pretty
Sugar Mice
Out of my Life
Internal Exile (Utrecht only)  

Raingods Dancing
Make it Happen

Flower of Scotland (Amsterdam only)


 (All photos JJ de Haan) 


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