Review by James Attwood with Photography by Laura Chen

There are few artists nowadays that truly captivate me and sound completely ‘fresh’ to my ears, Newcastle born Sam Fender however is one of those. I was lucky enough to see the shields songwriter this summer at Y Not festival and was immediately struck by the power of his voice, the unity of his band and how different his music was to the usual ‘trendy’ songwriter or indie styles around at the moment. He is currently on an EU and UK tour in support of his debut up ‘Dead Boys’ which is to be released on the 20th November. I was lucky enough to catch him at Birmingham’s Castle and Falcon.

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Birmingham is a tricky old city to crack as an act, unless it’s a Friday or Saturday evening or you are a golden oldie at the academy. The evening was in favour of Fender, a Saturday evening in a venue just outside of the city centre with a late curfew.

Support came from Tyneside post rock band A Festival, A Parade, whom are friends of Fender’s. His invitation to them to tour with him is a real indication of Fender’s down to earth roots and love to his hometown, having recently dismissed the urge to move to the city of London in an interview.

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Arriving on stage to applause from the crowd, the band delivered a blistering set of post and noise rock. It’s clear that the band have a range of influences, a mixture of My Bloody Valentine’s shoe gazing guitar’s, the earthy drumming and monotone vocals of the national, whilst also incorporating subtle synthesised elements.

Set opener Cold Shower was a highlight for me, before the set sadly seemed to cascade into a deafening racket, which was largely down to the size of the venue leaving little to be heard of the vocalist. Sex Dream provided a much needed lull in the set, with it’s post rock arpeggiated guitars and moody vocals before the band close their set with The Vineyard, ending with a melodic instrumental section which could of easily been composed by shoegaze heroes Slowdive.

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It’s a late curfew this evening, reflected in the later set times. Sam Fender arrives onstage around 9:30 to a sold out crowd and screams of “I love you Sam”. He can’t help being a good looking lad, but his set this evening proved that he is much more than a pretty face.

Opening with the storming Millennial, Fender starts as he means to go on as he and his band make the stage their own. Next up is the uplifting live favourite Will We Talk In The Morning, which seems to get better every time I hear it. There is a lot of love in the room for the young songwriter this evening, a mixture of family friends and fans, which Fender addresses regularly. It’s warming to hear that despite his meteoric rise, he stays true to his roots throughout the set. Only the Poets’ and fellow Geordie Joe is on guitar duties this evening due to Sam’s best friend breaking his leg and does a stellar job, fitting in effortlessly amongst a band of childhood friends.

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There is plenty of peaks and troughs throughout his set, tracks such as the War on Drugs influenced All Is On My Side provide quieter moments whilst Friday Fighting has as much bold attitude as you’d expect given it’s subject matter. Despite tracks such as All Is On My Side and Will We Talk In The Morning being unreleased, the crowd sing them back for word, not only indicating the loyalty of his fans, but how captivating his music really is.

Fender debuts a new track to a fiercely attentive crowd before breaking into Dead Boys, a track that only recently gained him a whole new fanbase through its dedication to the ever growing issue of male suicide, it also receives the biggest sing along of the evening.

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Play God is the penultimate track of the set, and sees Fender and band on top form, it’s good to see that him and his band could easily pass as a band and interact as one, as opposed to being blank faced musicians simply backing Sam.

The set is closed by two solo tracks, his summer breakthrough track Leave Fast and a cover of Springsteen’s Dancing In The Dark, a well known hero of Fender’s.

After a whirlwind year, I look forward to seeing what 2019 holds for the young songwriter and I look forward to the release of new music, whichever tracks that may contain. It very much feels that Sam Fender is what the industry is lacking and I hope his upward trajectory continues to much larger venues.

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