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The North Shields lad goes big AND goes home. 
Published: 25/02/2020
  Author + Photos: Eleanor Osada

The North East of England has birthed many a musical legend: Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics, Sting, Bryan Ferry, Mark Knopfler and Hank Marvin, to name but a few. But there’s a new wave of musicianship in the form of Sam Fender, who could easily join the ranks with his current ‘local hero’ status, despite his debut album only being released a matter of months ago.

After picking up the Critics Choice Award at the Brits at the beginning of 2019, Sam’s career has been caught up in a whirlwind, with ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ earning the No. 1 Album spot in the UK, headlining the fastest-selling Mouth of the Tyne Festival date ever, a Bob Dylan/Neil Young support slot at Hyde Park, and four sold-out dates at his local haunt: the O2 Academy in Newcastle - the very venue where The Beatles supposedly wrote ‘She Loves You’ in 1963. With so much buzz surrounding Sam, and him being homegrown, his Newcastle show was bound to be electric.

Sam originally had all four Newcastle shows lined up for December, probably in aims of tying a prosperous year up with a bow, but life proved to be an obstacle — he postponed the latter two, twice, along with other UK shows. Apologetic and heartbroken, Sam insisted all he wanted to do was “get back out there and sing”, but he desperately needed time to heal.

In far better spirits, Sam and his bandmates stride onto the stage on February 17th, the first headlining show of what he promises to be a “mental” year belonging to the toon. Sam’s rightfully proud of his roots - the screens fully donned in black and white stripes - and there’s a mutual admiration and love in the room. Sam glides between familiar favourites and dips into deeper cuts with ease, championing the grand, sweeping story-telling he does so well. There’s a beautiful symmetry with that of Springsteen’s music, that’s somehow even more obvious when watching Sam live: a victorious sadness in the hard truths. ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ is a vast bouquet of the unspoken — a lifetime narrative, in parts, of the average working-class person in the North East; the bold, forbidden chronicle of today’s youth, in all its ugliness. The album’s nervy, bare-faced swagger translates into a fearless live show, resonating with tonight’s audience members, acquainted with the streets and stories spilled into song.
Sam’s live sound is both massive and fun, and he fills the interludes with happy chat - again, apologising for the show’s delay. “Mind, you wouldn’t have heard this song if the show was in December”, he jokes, premiering anthemic new single ‘Hold Out’ - featuring a glorious bridge towards the end that allows for both a gristly guitar lead and sax solo to shine in tandem. He also pulls up a girl to sing, armed with a sign, during ‘Saturday’. The band shoot grins at one another as she nails every lyric, belting a little louder than Sam himself. But it’s not all upbeat, as he prefaces ‘Poundshop Kardashians’ with a speech about social media, the tabloids and the disastrous consequences: “it just keeps fucking happening”, last week’s press on Caroline Flack not being a far cry from the overwhelming modern horrors he details in his lyrics.

All in all, the show is enthralling. With such gutsy grandeur, the future is undoubtably blinding for Sam Fender. There’s both a grit and a warmth in his music — a plenteous, expansive wash of sound, almost destined to be timeless, entrenched with Northern tales of regretful triumph. Tonight, the Academy is an echo chamber, reverberating with sincerity, but also with a newfound belief in a local lad.



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