Live Review: Sam Fender – Liverpool

Sam Fender

6th November,  The Shipping Forecast Liverpool

Words: Elena Katrina 
Photos: Gary Lambert


I’ve seen Sam Fender play live about 7 times now this year and none of them, until now, have been a headline show. I’ve been waiting for this since March – to see how his crowd reacts, to see how he commands his own show and how many tracks he can cram into his headline set – quite a few would be the answer but before we get to that there’s a little matter of the support.img_0791

A Festival, A Parade are a band that have been nipping in and out of view for me over the last few years. Maybe it’s because our new sub-editor is from Newcastle but I seem to know all sorts going on that way these days and AFAP (for lazy people like me) have been taken note of. I was made up to hear they’d be supporting Sam in Liverpool as they’d done the previous evening in Manchester so we were off to a flying start tonight. Their sound is complex and smart. My initial thoughts over time have been a nod to Editors, a nod to Arcade Fire but neither of these came to mind today when I saw them play live. Raw and energetic but yet to really find their stage presence, they have found a voice musically, but like many a new support band at this level, they’ve not yet stamped much of anything on their in-between-songs patter. Granted it shouldn’t be important but it is – it is when you’re building a fan base, especially with a set as strong as theirs. There were parts that reminded me of a young Fatherson in the richness and the interwoven guitar parts but then there were spacey bleeps and whizzes that were worthy of a booking for Bluedot Festival. A perfect choice for support.

img_0792Sam Fender and his magical mystery guitarist…. poor Dean, laid up in Sheffield with a broken leg, but for a guitarist to step in with only a day’s notice, I’ll tell you what, he did a fine fine job… and I’d know, having seen them play… yeah yeah too many times, I know. Sam cuts an unassuming figure on stage and until tonight I hadn’t really seen so much of his personality but he’s a funny fucker, really he is. It dawned on me during the evening that every time I watch Sam Fender play I probably have a huge smile plastered on my face and he probably wonders why. Given the dark subject matter of his songs it’s not really an appropriate thing to do; smile. Yet it’s so bloody hard not to, the music is almost at odds with the lyrics, with it’s fast-paced major note-led kind of juxtaposition. Then there’s the vocal  – sometimes I fall in love with a vocal, if you read this blog often you’ll have probably heard me say it before. It’s a tonal thing I think, it sings to my soul and Sam has “it” whatever the “it” is. I have to close my eyes during Leave Fast, those notes – you know the ones, yeah those. Goosebump time.

There were tracks peppered throughout the set that I felt certain would get the crowd singing but it wasn’t really until Greasy Spoon (maybe 3 songs toward the end) that really got the reaction I thought the likes of Start Again and Friday Fighting would have got, (no doubt the girl who was screaming for it at Bushstock earlier this year will be more than delighted come the 13th of the month – where I sure as hell hope she got a ticket!). The crowd seemed a mixed bag but that’s to be expected of a new artist still making their way forward toward an album release. The atmosphere was great though, parts of the crowd shouting out and cheering and singing. It felt like it’s going to be one of those gigs “remember the time we got to see Sam Fender in the Shipping Forecast”. No doubt support from BBC 6 Music and a glorious showcase on Jools Holland a few weeks ago did his ticket sales no end of good.

img_0790He tells us this is really his first (proper) Liverpool show though he did play Sound City (I went – obviously) and he did support George Ezra at Leaf whereupon he tells us that he got taken out to a square full of nightclubs (oh god who took him to Concert Square FFS) and then he had a wild night ending in a Travelodge with Nutella all up the walls! I don’t know, rock n roll these days eh! Confectionary based fun. Before playing Play God, Sam tells us “we released this song a year and a half ago and it’s mad how far we’ve come. I have to slap myself every morning. This all started in a shed and now we’re in a basement in Liverpool”. A chuckle rose inside me at that, it doesn’t sound so impressive, but when you consider a stunning set in a church at SXSW, every other festival going during the Summer and now a sold-out tour…. it’s really quite something.

Ending his epic set on a Bruce Springsteen cover of Dancing In The DarkSam Fender is surely walking out of the venue with a solid fan base who are going to come back time again and not just for his cover version! I hope he comes back to Liverpool again very soon. He’s said he’ll come back, but only if we do, it’s a two way deal. I’m all signed up and raring to go  – let’s do this!

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    Popped Music has been going since Feb 2010.

    All articles written by Elena Katrina unless otherwise stated.

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