In the space of just over a year, indie icon Sam Fender has climbed the ranks from Leeds former venue ‘Chapel’ to a sold-out show at O2 Academy. Not only that, he’s already bagged himself a headline show at First Direct Arena come April 2020. His rising success was more than evident on Friday night, as both the ground floor and balcony of O2 overflowed with enlivened fans.
Fender opened with one of the anthems of the summer, ‘Will We Talk’ which had the diverse crowd thriving, from excitable teenagers to middle-aged rockers. Fender’s tunes are the kind that appeals to both; the heavier tunes had the youngsters bouncing erratically whilst those at the edge of the throng belted their hearts out. If anything, there wasn’t enough space to hold us all.
Yet the limited room didn’t dispel the continual sing-alongs and mosh-pits. You couldn’t get more feel-good than when tracks like ‘Saturday’ had the entire crowd singing without Fender’s aid. “You’re fucking dangerous Leeds” he joked when things began to get a little rowdy.
“If anything, there wasn’t enough space to hold us all“
But the highlight of the night had to be ‘Hypersonic Missiles’. You’ve probably been living under a rock if you haven’t heard this song. Along with the sax-solo, arguably one of the songs of the year had the room bouncing, recalling anthemic Bruce Springsteen spirits as the politically anxious, youthful lyrics swept across the room.
A personal moment came from Fender as he introduced the 2018 released ‘Dead Boys’. “This songs about my hometown”, he tells us. The sombre theme reflects on Fender’s despair at the rate of suicide in his small-town and that an upbringing amidst this is sobering. It’s clearly a fan-favourite, something that speaks to a larger issue, and for that reason resonates amongst his fans worldwide.
It wouldn’t be Sam Fender without his old-school rock influences: Bruce Springsteen and Oasis covers finish the night, with his repertoire tune ‘Dancing in the dark’ a sure highlight. He manages to keep his own music feeling fresh and young whilst returning to the classic sounds we all know and love.
It was one of those gigs where the buzz is still present as everyone makes their way outside. Fender maintains his North-Shields identity amidst the array of musical influences that have shaped him as an artist, ensuring he keeps making the music he wants to make. It stays fresh- despite his place as what some might see as yet another young indie rocker. He keeps an assured edge of originality, as his songs speak to topics that really matter. With a solid debut album under his belt, and clearly a lot of support from his growing fan-base, Fender seems set to make his voice last.
[Header & article images : Kate Wassell]