Live Review: Sam Fender – Manchester

Sam Fender

img_8839.jpgGorilla, Manchester, 25th February 2019

Words: Elena Katrina

Hectorn Gannet is tonight’s warm up . He (yes he, not a band), hails from the motherland of Mr Fender.  Musically it’s solid and melodic but there feels like there’s a bit of a disconnect between him and the early doors crowd at Gorilla.

The crowd politely applauds their headliners support choice but there’s very little enthusiasm for the most part. It’s a shame as this band are brilliant. Beautiful melancholy sounds and I understand why they’re the choice. There’s a swagger to the bass that is particularly alluring. And the drummer has a sense of humour bashing out the opening drum beats to That Sound …. before the band head into their track Hollow.

Also from North Shields just is “our” Sam. Being in the throng of the crowd I overheard “ Where’s North Shields? …. “it’s like Newcastle”… swiftly followed by “yeah but it’s like saying I’m from Manchester when I’m from Warrington” …. Sam Fender (and support) bringing geography lessons to the NW.

It’s the very last song of the set that is my favourite.  I adore the percussion; using sticks and cymbals and then it takes off, running a thunderous beat. It’s a song that’s about 10 minutes long and glorious in every trembling moment.  This ain’t no pop song,  it’s intelligent alternative rock and at this point, I’m all in.

Sam Fender …. before he’s even on there is almost a brawl behind me and quietly hope this isn’t a sign of things to come. Lights down to bring in synths that sound like a siren… the call to arms. Immediately there’s a sea of phones out! I’ll do the same no doubt but only in the name of working you understand. I want to live in the moment of the gig, soak it up as much as I can. I want you to read this and feel like you were there with me, or at least that you wish you’d been.

This is the band’s first show as a five-piece and we welcome Joe on synths and Dean (who has his own fan club in the crowd wherever he goes) is back (he broke his arm). “If we fuck it up it’s our first time (as 5) and “if you’ve been to a show before you’ll know this”  …plays a note “and then you’ll all know it’s out of tune, let’s fix that…” I just love how at his own shows Sam really comes out of his shell. He seems far more relaxed than when I’ve seen him at festivals. While the re-tuning happens we get some crowd interaction about the Brit Award. It doesn’t go unnoticed that it’s while he’s trying to fix something so with that ever-so wry humour of his, he cracks a smile and sheepishly says “Ever since he won that he’s shite” … and if there was one person in the room who wasn’t convinced, I reckon he got them right then.

We are treated to an album track called The Boarders and we learn that the record will have a saxophone player on it which sounds an interesting proposition.  “But I can’t afford a saxophone player …..but if you keep coming to the shows I might be able to afford it!”. Have I told you it’s not just the music that makes me enjoy these shows so much? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… he really IS a funny fucker (despite the serious observations he so cannily turns into his lyrical tapestry).

Sam sups a brew and plays one we know … Dead Boys and I feel like everyone should shut up or sing along at this point. There are three electric guitars for a live shortened rendition of the track’s EP Prelude and it’s already starting to make the hair on the back of my neck stand on end. Everyone sings but it sounds joyous. It’s weird and it unnerves me but yet there’s something magical to hear everyone sing every word. Weirdly the chorus to this is what has prompted a small mosh pit and I’m caught in the middle. It’s an entirely new Sam Fender gig experience for me and it’s exhilarating, to say the least.

“The last four months of our lives have just gone fucking metal and the last 2 months I’ve been sat in my mums flat waiting for a gig” Sam Feder, Brit Award winner, has been sat waiting for a gig. He could have had one before tonight   – I’d have had him play in my house until he had no voice left.

I love how we are being treated to some reworkings of the recorded songs at this show. A really interesting start to Greasy Spoon gives us a stripped back intro with the chorus. It’s really a  mellow reworking and is quite stunning. The synth gives a whole new and refreshing feel and texture too. Then they crack the whip and we’re off again to full throttle.


“Start again!”

People call out from the crowd and it’s such a good vibe. I’m beaming as usual and even during the show, my face starts to ache from it.

Spice sees the crowd go mad and  I (stupidly?) move forward only to further get trampled on. But it’s what going to gigs is all about – being a part of the gig not just being a mere witness.  It’s an impressive run-through for a first-ever live performance of it and the crowd certainly have taken it to their hearts already. I reckon that’ll become a firm favourite at gigs now.

Toward the end of the show, we have a little technical hitch. Dean’s pedal board still thinks it’s on holiday and has decided to give up the ghost. Already the professional and seeming unphased, Sam just cracks on and delivers an acapella version of (fast becoming my favourite track) Poundshop Kardashians.  Thankfully all pedals have been revived and we’re back with Play God. I expected more of a reaction considering it’s “the new one” (so say all the radio DJs anyway). What it is, is the “last song”…. or is it?

“What a fucking farce the encore is eh … thanks for playing along” Sam grins out to the crowd who spent all of 30 seconds chanting for him to come back as he sauntered back on stage. He’s back and he’s alone and it’s Leave Fast. The solo one with THE skin tingling vocal that makes me shiver and take out my earplugs so I can hear it that little better and louder.

The first time I saw Sam play live was just over a year ago since then I’ve seen him a fair few times. I can’t get enough. His energy is great but it’s his tone, his lyrics and his smarts that I love. The political nature of his songs, his social commentary that tells it like it is but set to music that can reach the masses. “I wanna be anybody but me” he sings as he yet again accurately describes the lives of those enslaved to social media and celebrity.

Ending on That Sound the place erupts, I know it’s the end I move to the back to witness it all, to see the bigger picture; to take in the fans reaction (and to have a dance). This show is a game changer. I can feel it, it’s in the air. His next show is across the road at The Ritz and I can’t wait to be a part of that show too, here’s hoping I’ll be there!


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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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