Saturday, September 18, 2021

Sam Fender shines at sold-out Manchester show

Anticipation builds as the lights dim, enveloping Manchester’s beloved Victoria Warehouse in darkness. 

Today an eager audience of 3,500 have gathered to see the electrifying Sam Fender play on a tour that includes some of his biggest shows to date. 

Beneath flashing lights and a cloud of smoke, each band member enters the stage encouraging the crowd to cheer louder before the main man himself arrives at the mic stand wielding a grey Jazzmaster (he’ll change instruments a few times during the set) and flashing a cheeky smile before bursting into riotous opening tune ‘Will We Talk?’

Fender, who played one of the first socially distanced concerts back in August 2020 at Newcastle’s pandemic-proof Virgin Money Unity Arena, is embarking on a massively postponed tour – this show was meant to take place back in March 2020, before being halted by the UK’s initial lockdown. So understandably ticket holders had high expectations. As a result of the delay, the North Shields native is on the cusp of releasing his sophomore album ‘Seventeen Going Under’, therefore fans are in for a riveting setlist encompassing new and old tracks.

Now a firm favourite with the British public and having caught the eye (or ear) of the legendary Elton John, it is only right that Fender is playing to some 7,000 fans across two sold out shows at Manchester’s O2 Victoria Warehouse.

Unlike other musicians of his ilk, Fender opts to tackle dense subject matter in his lyrics, with his 2018 single ‘Dead Boys’ being written for two friends who took their own lives, whilst ‘Play God’ is a scathing criticism of modern politicians. But don’t be fooled, there are no dreary or downbeat moments in the set; in fact, one of Fender’s greatest talents is his ability to simultaneously entertain and shine a light on issues of personal importance. It is undoubtedly this honest approach to song-writing which has struck a chord with a legion of listeners. Both songs feature early on in his set, along with ‘The Borders’, which Fender calls “my favourite song off the first album” in his hushed Tyneside tones. His thought-provoking lyrics are underpinned by relentless riffs and even the odd saxophone solo, courtesy of Johnny ‘Bluehat’ Davis, resulting in textured Americana-inspired instrumentals.

But even more striking is Fender’s voice. Undeniably his most impressive instrument, Sam’s soaring vocals ricochet off each wall of the warehouse and are echoed by a chorus of concertgoers clearly relishing the opportunity to finally see their hero.

The 27-year-old interacts with the crowd like a seasoned showman, referring to his audience as “you lovely Manc bastards”, a remark which elicits a rapturous response. Recent tracks ‘Seventeen Going Under’, ‘Get You Down’, and ‘Howdon Aldi Death Queue’ packs a punch, with the latter especially providing perfect grounds for a mosh pit.

In a four-song encore, Fender treats his audience to a cover of personal hero Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Dancing In The Dark’, prompting girls to take to their boyfriends’ shoulders and sway their arms in time to the dreamy sonic landscape.

Of course, he wraps the show up with the track that cemented his star status, the uproarious ‘Hypersonic Missiles.’ And it’s safe to say there was not a single person who did not join in with its gigantic chorus. On the way out of the venue, the wind carries the continued chants of “Oh-oh-oh, Oh-oh-oh-oh” and there’s even a lone drummer down the road attracting quite the crowd and playing along to this glorious tune.

If Sam Fender’s show tonight is anything to go by, the North Shields singer is well on his way to a festival headline slot.


Sarah Taylor


Image: Sam Fender by Sarah Taylor

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