Halfway through a sold-out UK tour, rising singer-songwriter Sam Fender stopped in Nottingham for the ninth stage of the tour to play a stunning set of tracks spanning the last two years.
“A sound crossed between Nothing But Thieves’ epic arena rock and Hozier’s spine-tingling vocals”
Just twelve months ago, North Shields singer-songwriter Sam Fender was announced on the list for BBC’s Sound of 2018, a comprehensive insight into music’s next generation of potential stars that included the likes of Sigrid, Rex Orange County and Pale Waves. Fast-forward to now and Fender is starting to establish himself as an outspoken indie-rock singer-songwriter with a sound crossed between Nothing But Thieves’ epic arena rock and Hozier’s spine-tingling vocals.
As an eager crowd filed into Rock City’s sold-out Basement, Fender took to the stage with his band to the theme song of iconic sci-fi television show Stranger Things before launching into barnstorming single “Millennial”, an honest self-reflection on being “young and dumb” alongside today’s current generation. In an interview with the BBC a few days ago, Fender described his frustration with the “social-media generation,” and the opening track highlights just the first of many topics in which Fender hasn’t been afraid to speak out about.
“Emphatic build ups into the chorus cascading into a powerful guitar-ridden ending”
The dynamic between Fender and the band was electric from the beginning, but this smoothness was apparently an uncertainty for the singer. Before “Start Again”, the 22-year old informed the crowd that his regular guitarist had “snapped his leg in a freak trampoline accident” meaning that a replacement had to come in with just a few hours of rehearsals. Despite the short-notice, the four musicians roared through “Start Again”, with emphatic build ups into the chorus cascading into a powerful guitar-ridden ending.
“Fender has the conviction and capability to delve into new paths when he wishes”
“All Is On My Side” offered a moment of respite with its melancholic start, before developing into a sublime take on The War On Drugs’ American-esque rock, proving that Fender has the conviction and capability to delve into new paths when he wishes. Following the lengthy closing section, the singer announced to the already ecstatic crowd that that his debut EP Dead Boys will be released on November 20th, with six tracks including new material.
“Fender’s vocals were startling, highlighting just one of the reasons why he’s been so hotly tipped for the coming months”
After joking with a Glaswegian heckler in the audience, Fender launched into arguably his most known track to date, “Dead Boys”, previously named as Annie Mac’s “Hottest Record In The World” on Radio 1 at the start of October. Fender’s eye for social awareness is perhaps most prevalent in this track, which focuses on male suicide and the conversations surrounding the need for greater awareness and help. A beautiful track about an ever-growing issue, Fender’s vocals were startling, highlighting just one of the reasons why he’s been so hotly tipped for the coming months.
“Friday Fighting” is a raucous recount of a bar brawl, with thundering drums and tails of toxic masculinity providing more of an excuse for a rise in energy within the crowd, whilst That Sound is a blissful sheen of spiralling shoe-gaze guitar. Opening with a powerful Hozier-esque falsetto-based a capella introduction, the band used distortion and feedback from the guitar amps to optimal effect.
Foot-stomping fan favourite “Greasy Spoon” provided the biggest crowd participation of the night before “Play God”, a hard-hitting Orwellian-esque track describing a dystopian world and criticising events in the Middle East, finished the regular set with the band. As the band left the stage, Fender played a two-track encore, starting with the sublime “Leave Fast”, a single detailing the fear of never leaving your home town. Perhaps Fender’s most honest track to date, the single showcases the strength in the singer’s vocals, which fill the room to epic proportion. Closing the set with Bruce Springsteen cover “Dancing in the Dark”, there’s a flicker of “The Boss” within the North Shields singer-songwriter, whose finger-picking guitar section closes the set off in perfect style.
“It seems remarkable that an artist who has yet to release anything other than single tracks is able to perform such a convincing set from start to end”
It seems remarkable that an artist who has yet to release anything other than single tracks is able to perform such a convincing set from start to end. With a certain charm, Sam Fender, with the help of his band, have shown from this show just how high they could potentially reach. The live setup allows the music to escalate to arena-sized proportions, whilst Fender’s solo performance to close the set beautifully captured the intimacy of the venue. As his debut EP is released in a couple of weeks, Sam Fender is an artist to keep an eye out for. Having already garnered support from the likes of Radio 1 and NME, I would not be surprised to see the young singer-songwriter playing in Rock City’s main venue next year, following a similar path to Scottish singer-songwriter Tom Walker.
“Be sure to catch him next year before it becomes impossible”
Sam Fender has already supported the likes of Catfish & The Bottlemen and Hozier, has sold out a UK tour, and has released an eclectic mix of singles over the last few years, tackling some big societal issues, all whilst regaining a sense of calmness over what could come next. It’s incredibly difficult to explain what a feat Fender has achieved, as an artist without an EP to his name yet, and with November 20th coming very soon, be sure to catch him next year before it becomes impossible.
Featured Image courtesy of Sam Fender Official Facebook Page.