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There is an air of anticipation for Geordie singer-songwriter Sam Fender this evening. After a whirlwind 2019, which he started by winning the Brits’ Critics Choice Award, beating the likes of Lewis Capaldi, he ends it with a long sold-out UK tour following the release of his debut record ‘Hypersonic Missiles’.
Before he takes to the stage, hotly-tipped newcomer Brooke Bentham opens proceedings. A hometown friend of Fender’s from when they used to do open-mic nights together, it’s fitting that she now opens his biggest ever headline shows. Despite having a hushed, reserved stage persona, her voice is the polar opposite, landing somewhere between Stevie Nicks and Wolf Alice’s Ellie Rowsell. She and her band blast through a set of tracks from her upcoming debut, due in February, including the grungey riffs of ‘All My Friends Are Drunk’ and the phenomenal ‘Blue Light’, which features Bentham’s vocal howl at its finest. Despite the more tender moments being spoiled by a talkative crowd, the distortion-fuelled recent single ‘Perform For You’ ends the set on an energetic high note.
As Fender and his band bounce onto the stage and launch into a thundering ‘Will We Talk’, it is clear that despite it being a Monday night, the Glaswegian crowd are properly up for it. The place promptly goes nuts and is matched only by Fender’s boundless energy. He only reaches the end of his second song of the night before commenting “it doesn’t get much better than that”. After the excellent ‘All Is On My Side’, featuring beautiful War On Drugs-esque melodies, he simply exclaims “this is fucking smashing, like” in his broad Geordie brogue. With a smile permanently etched across his face, Fender is loving every minute.
The frontman may be soft-spoken, but he certainly doesn’t shy away from his political viewpoints. He exclaims “fuck the Tories” after requesting to be brought with Scotland if independence eventually occurs, and during an urgent ‘Spice’, images of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson are displayed on the screens depicted as unsavoury beasts. On ‘Dead Boys’, an astutely aware ode to his hometown, he sings “everybody round here just drinks, because thats our culture”, and showcases himself as an emerging spokesman for a new generation of disaffected youth.
Fender is an unabashed Bruce Springsteen mega fan, and his influence is clear on the likes of stadium-sized singles ‘The Borders’ and ‘Hypersonic Missiles’, the latter of which features the classic “woah-oh-oh” chants that The Boss is renowned for. He even welcomes a saxophone player, resplendent in a bucket hat and vintage Newcastle United top, who adds extra E Street charm. If this wasn’t enough, the Geordie pays the ultimate tribute in ending his set on a now customary cover of ‘Dancing In The Dark’.
As one of the breakout stars of 2019, Sam Fender is leading the charge in bringing guitar-based music back to the airwaves. He has a thoroughly likeable persona, and while there isn’t much in the way of substance to many of his songs, it is refreshing to see faith being restored amongst the youth in anthemic guitar music once again.
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