From claiming ‘Best Rock/Alternative Artist’ at the BRIT Awards and being named ‘Best Album in the World’ at the NME Awards, through to selling out arenas all over the country on his UK tour and becoming one of the most sought after British musicians out there at the minute, Sam Fender is undoubtedly the man of the moment. The release of second album, ‘Seventeen Going Under’, has catapulted Sam to a level of stardom he’d have thought unimaginable so early in his career, but it’s by no means undeserved. So could he back it up on the live stage?
This time last week, we were in Liverpool to watch his sold out show at the M&S Bank Arena, where an 11,000 strong crowd roared on the North Shields band as they made their casual entrance. No big build up, no large-scale entrance reflective of his current standing in the music business. This is an artist who could be replicating his hometown ‘Local Hero’ entrance at every single gig, but he’s happy to enter in a low key manner with the rest of his band, reflective of a man keeping his feet firmly on the ground.
He’s sticking with trusted opener, ‘Will We Talk’, no ‘Seventeen Going Under’ inspired risky change as far as that’s concerned. But then straight into the aptly titled, ‘Getting Started’, the crowd in full voice for a recent album track. Going into early hit ‘Dead Boys’, a song usually dedicated to his hometown, Fender pays tribute to Liverpool and cites the similarities between the two northern cities. Sam also went on to shout out one of his producers who is local to Liverpool and present in a box, stating he wouldn’t be where he is today without that ‘plastic scouser’.
Tracks from the latest record, ‘Mantra’ and ‘Better of Me’ preceded Sam’s personal favourite from his 2019 debut album, in the shape of arguably his strongest track to date, ‘The Borders’. The crowd were encouraged to create a ‘safe’ mosh pit for the next two rowdy numbers, with ‘Spice’ and ‘Howdon Aldi Death Queue’, Sam still chuckling to himself at the ‘get off the Metro now’ opening to the latter. Fender signalled a singalong for the next offering, leading into recent single ‘Get You Down’, before fellow album 2 single, ‘Spit of You’, for which Sam played a section with his back to the crowd in order to not miss the photos of himself and his father on the screen, as he had done the night before in Nottingham.
‘Play God’ was partially interrupted as Sam checked on the wellbeing of a fan, before ‘The Leveller’ and ‘The Dying Light’ closed the main part of the set, the latter accompanied with an impressive confetti explosion. Walking back out for the encore, Sam asked the crowd “did I hear just hear you chanting f**k the tories?”. He agreed with the majority of the crowd, and stated “f**k the sun too!”, before launching into debut album single, ‘Saturday’. This left two of the biggest hitters remaining, with the disturbingly relevant ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ remaining the set closer, and immensely popular title track, ‘Seventeen Going Under’ preceding it.
If there were any doubts over how far Sam Fender can go before this gig, then they shouldn’t remain afterwards. If this trajectory continues, a Pyramid Stage headline slot could be just around the corner with album 3. These are incredibly positive times for British guitar music, with Sam leading the way for what could be the dawn of a new exciting musical era for indie guitar artists!
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