By: Ryan Burdett
15 November, 2018, 20:00
Photos: Ryan Burdett
Having just been named on YouTube’s Ones to Watch list, Sam Fender bursts onto the London stage with overwhelming enthusiasm. The 22-year-old singer-songwriter has come a long way since pulling pints in a local-pub Tyneside. It was here that he was discovered by his manager, Owen Davies, after playing a few original tracks. Fender then signed to Polydor, and has since supported Catfish and The Bottlemen, Hozier, and Ben Howard, amongst others. He’s in the capital to perform three sold-out shows at OMEARA. And he doesn’t waste time.
He plunges straight into the energetic, upbeat ‘Millennial’, referencing how his generation gets a bad reputation. “I’m a millennial. I’m young and dumb.” The near Newcastle native wields his instrument of which he shares a name whilst performing this vibrant track; a song that satirises how he, and his crowd for the most-part, are viewed in society. He follows up swiftly with ‘Will We Talk in the Morning?’, a slightly heavier rock track which establishes the vocal strength Sam can achieve.
Taking a break to address his crowd, he points out that his guitarist had a “freak trampoline accident” so his friend has had to learn the set and step in. He also takes this opportunity to ‘shamelessly plug’ his new Dead Boys EP. Sniggering and joking with his audience, Fender is clearly a natural frontman. He launches into more recent releases, fan-favourites it seems, with ‘Start Again’ and ‘All is On My Side’. Lyrically, Sam’s tracks are socio-political, reflecting on either his views or his experiences. None more so than ‘Dead Boys’, a song about mental health and toxic masculinity with over two million streams on Spotify. “We close our eyes, learn our pain, nobody ever could explain” suggests his awareness towards men bottling up their feelings.
After playfully denying a teenage fan to join him onstage, he rattles through ‘The Change’ and stand-out track ‘Friday Fighting’ before slowing it down for ‘That Sound’, his latest single. He begins performing it in acapella. It’s here that you can begin to hear the honesty in Sam’s vocal before he begins to bounce around the stage with his fellow bandmates into the chorus and beyond.
Later in the set, the crowd-pleasing ‘Play God’ is performed. This rhythmic track, that featured on popular video-game FIFA 19, is a hit amongst fans of the young lad from North Shields and sounds incredible within the four walls of OMEARA. The band leave the stage as Fender approaches the mic for bleak ballad, ‘Leave Fast’. Here we are exposed to his vulnerabilities and provincial fear. “Leave fast or stay forever.” He clearly looks back in anger at the place he was brought up.
Luckily, the indie rocker is touring the UK again in February 2019 after a short stint supporting Blossoms on their winter tour in December. It’s no doubt that after an impressive festival season and playing sold-out gigs across the UK, Sam Fender is well on his way to becoming a powerhouse in the alternative rock genre.