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
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
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.