Sam Fender – O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, London (6th May 2019)

Sam Fender is one of those artists whose rise really has dominated much of recent attention in British music. Like Jake Bugg before him, praise has poured out from every imaginable corner.

Tonight, the iconic Shepherds Bush Empire awaited the boy from Newcastle and his band compiled of childhood friends.  The venue was packed out, each tier of this old theatre feeling the weight of Bank Holiday beers and joyous expectation.

The first five songs of this set felt as if Fender was just warming up. They were songs that didn’t leave much of a memorable taste in the mouth; songs that allow for nerves to diminish and songs that didn’t do this artist justice.

If we were to draw a graph of this show, it would show a direct rise from an average bottom to dizzying heights.

The track that kick starts the rise of this show is ‘Dead Boys’, an atmospheric song linked to a spate of suicides in Fender’s neighbourhood a couple of years back. It is a song that shows what Fender is about: big riffs and powerful drums, tailored with lyrics that make you stop in your tracks.An emphatic song with a dark message, it leaves a weird but enticing mix of emotions.

Tearing away from this, on ‘Greasy Spoon’, Fender is at his most commanding. The Empire sparks into life and the crowd below us begin to jostle. With Fender, it is hard to describe his fans’ movements as moshing, for his songs don’t necessarily demand that reaction.

He is an artist that brings fascination and utmost appreciation.

Dressed in a denim jacket, slack-fitted chinos and Adidas kicks, Fender wears his fringe loose and messy. For a recent face of a Topman suit campaign, he is the epitome of a figurehead that achieves the hard-to-master “no effort” look.

It is not just his appearance that has this feel, as it also bleeds into his music. Such is his talent and humble self-belief, he is relaxed in his stance but a powerhouse in his delivery.

Whilst the stage is full of Fender and his brilliant band, it is when the Geordie boy is left on the stage by himself that he comes into his own. ‘Leave Fast’ the track that allows for this examination as his voice is afforded the centre stage it deserves.

Fender is an artist with a clear identity in his sound. At times, there is the danger of songs sounding the same, but in his slight deviations in songs like the stop-start rhythm of ‘Play God’, he is untouchable.

With a Brit award already under his belt and a debut album set to land in August, he is on his way to becoming a great.

On ‘Poundshop Kardashians’, his writing comes into its own, whereas ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ reflects his inner desire to write anthemic tunes. It was on this song that leaves the Empire in raptures, with a good 2 minutes of applause followed.

Tonight, Sam Fender told the London crowd how he played the city for the first time at 18 years of age, just down the road. He came to see Jessie Ware at the Empire that night, with his manager telling him he would play here one day.

With tonight’s show and a successive show coming the next night, he has achieved his dream. Watch out as he goes on to surpass anything he thought possible.