13/11/2010 | Little Fish – O2 Academy, Oxford

Lisa Ward

“‘Listening to my music, wishing I could fluke it’. Juju, darling – you can’t.” Isn’t that what the NME said of Baffled & Beat, the debut album from Little Fish? And at the time, I have to admit being outraged. But you know something, tonight’s performance goes a long way to show that actually the NME were right, because music like this simply isn’t a stroke of luck. Whilst it’s Juju’s vocal diversity and stage presence that undoubtedly keeps the sets momentum, it’s the combination of this being layered over Nez’s arresting drum rhythms and the sympathetic yet poignant Hammond melodies, instigated by Ben that keep the whole thing flowing.

I will admit I adore Little Fish but I have equally seen some shabby sets, times when the sound has been messed around with too much and the Hammond has dwarfed everything else on stage. Times when guitar strings have broken or the audience has stood in silence, simply not getting Little Fish’s vibe. Tonight is not one of those. Baffled & Beat leads into Darling Dear which in turn gives way to Am I Crazy? and within just three songs the Academy floor is transformed into an enigmatic sea of nodding heads and twitching feet.

As Juju crawls and jumps and runs around the stage, it’s hard not to notice the smiling face of Nez attached to his flailing arms and it’s this humanness, the obvious joy at playing a heaving hometown show, which captures the real essence of what Little Fish are really about.  Whilst the old songs drop like stones, their power and weight already determined, the new songs open up the possibilities of what Little Fish might yet become. Whilst Only A Game starts as something Joplin might have written, it quickly transforms into pounding rock and makes the addition of the Hammond to their line up seem justified.

The dynamic between Juju & Nez is never overlooked, their sound simply becomes more unified with the culmination of all three instruments and Innuendo with its rockabilly feel, indicates that whilst the first album was almost discordant, the band have finally found their sound. As the audience hang on nearly every word, Juju reaches her microphone into the crowd and questions ‘cos proper lovers, they use..?’ and I am torn as to how to respond. The lyrically correct answer may well be guitars, but given the gusto and vibrancy of Nez & Ben, drums or Hammond would equally suffice.

And of course I could go on, about how the lower key additions like Sorry State and Heroin Dance add the diversity that most rock bands miss and how there’s almost a sense of irony that Juju has to check her chords with Ben for the very song (Bang! Bang!) that NME based their criticism upon but if I did so, I’d be raving on forever. ‘Why does love come on so suddenly?’ Juju questions and I’m equally perplexed, but it’s fair to say Little Fish live is an instant love affair and I would challenge anyone not to be drawn in by their allure.

www.littlefishmusic.co.uk