Review by Becky Weaver with Photography by Nikki Rodgers

Some might say that it’s been a bit of a whirlwind of a year for Sam Fender. Since releasing his debut single 18 months ago, the 24-year-old has been listed on the BBC’s Sound of 2018 Award, picked up a prestigious BRITS Critics’ Choice Award and sold out venues across the country. Quite a feat for an artist that’s yet to even release their debut album.

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He’s high on the radar of critics everywhere – myself included – but seems to be shellshocked from how much his career has progressed in a mere matter of months.

And so this sold-out tour of intimate venues is simply a chance for Fender to tease what he’s got planned ahead. With his debut album not set to hit shelves until August, fans have had to make do with a handful of singles and EPs that have been more than enough for him to work his magic.

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Before taking to the stage of his Friday night gig at Birmingham’s O2 Institute, the crowd were treated to set from A Festival, A Parade.

Fender is yet another strong performer for the UK to add to its bow of ever-growing talented male solo artists that are taking the world by storm. Alongside the likes George Ezra, Ed Sheeran, and Stormzy, Fender is paving his way through the industry at a rapid pace, nipping on the heels of his mainstream peers as he goes.

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He has all the credentials to break the industry, too. Smooth vocals that are an utter dream to listen to, looks of a model that’s been plucked fresh from a fashion campaign and the ability to have a crowd hang on to his every word and chanting his name.

I remember the first time I heard Fender’s voice; I was in my car driving up the motorway and Dead Boys was picked as BBC Radio One Breakfast Show’s Greg James’ Tune of the Week.

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I was instantly hooked – not just because of his voice but the power that lay both within that and his lyrics. Fender’s music is honest, raw and remains true to his roots of his childhood and youth. Though it may seem a little rough around the edges, the lyrics are so deep and meaningful that it’s no wonder he’s grabbing so much attention for all the right reasons.

He’s not writing about how he got his heartbroken at 16, or his first lads’ holiday, he’s pouring his heart out over really sensitive and taboo subjects; male suicides in Dead Boys, bewilderment and questioning his choices in the heavy hitting Poundshop Kardashians and an being in an abusive relationship from a women’s point of view.

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Fender may still be relatively new to the scene, but through his no-nonsense approach to addressing such sensitive subjects is seeing him sell out venues, secure headline slots and festival appearances up and down the country.

“We had two great nights in London, do you reckon you can beat that?” Fender asks the crowd. A few songs down the line and his Birmingham crowd are well and truly up for beating Fender’s stints in London.

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He plays his latest single, Hypersonic Missiles and as he strikes the last chord the cheers come. They don’t stop either, and Fender seems, quite frankly, a bit blown away by the whole situation. Five songs in and the crowd is repeatedly chanting his name and Fender stands there with the biggest smile spread across his face.

“This is a mega tour for us”, he beams. “We put our next tour on sale this morning and most of it sold out in 80 minutes. We wouldn’t have been able to do that without your support, so thanks for being so mega. We love you.”

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