Live Review: Sam Fender – Liverpool

Sam Fender

Guild of Students, Liverpool, 23 November 2019

Words by Gary Lambert

Photos by Elena Katrina

 

B1706BF9-074A-4E4D-ADBC-737618EE549DAt Popped Music we all love Sam Fender with only one exception… Me.  I don’t dislike him as a person (very much the opposite in fact), nor do I hate his music.  It is just one of those things where an artist doesn’t connect with you in same way he does with the person you are talking to.  I’m sure there are acts around who Sam feels the same about, just like there are for everybody.  That said the thought of going to see him on his sold out, Number One Album, Hypersonic Missiles tour was such an exciting prospect that there was no way I was saying no to the chance.  After all, it was only twelve months ago I saw him play in the 150-capacity (at best) Liverpool venue, The Shipping Forecast.  I was intrigued to see how the rise affected him.

Upon arrival at Guild of Students, the first thing I thought about was how those waiting in the ever-increasing cold would have filled The Shipping Forecast two or three times over, and we were still twenty minutes away from the doors opening.  The second thought that came to my mind was that about 90% of that crowd was young females.  That caught me totally by surprise.  I did not think his modern take on Springsteen would be popular with such a crowd.  But we are living in a world where the youth are becoming more politically savvy by the day, and even if those cheekbones might help for some, it was obvious through the night that these fans were not there because he is a matinee idol.

C1638754-DE63-446F-9E3B-EC6263166081I had not heard of the support act for this tour, Brooke Bentham, until earlier in the day when I received a text message about it as I couldn’t find the information online.  I was unsure of what to expect, but when I noticed such a luminary as Bill Ryder-Jones playing guitar for her, it made me take notice.  What I saw was a musician obviously still finding her way in the world, but the songs that she had in her arsenal were wonderfully well-constructed.  This did not feel like a support slot, more like a headliner in a smaller venue that I didn’t know too much about.  Brooke’s work too fit in very well with the vibe of a Sam Fender gig with a steady pace and personality to it but neither too gentle nor too heavy to make building momentum awkward.  If you are a fan of Sam, I’d definitely recommend that you check her out.

By the time Sam Fender took to the stage things were at fever pitch inside Mountford Hall.  The atmosphere was tense and excited.  As the North Shields lad took to the stage bathed in white light, the roar was like a football team coming out of the tunnel.  As he started to sing Will We Talk? every word was belted back at him with gusto.  This communal choir lasted every minute of the set whether his fans were on the barrier, on the balcony, or even at the bar in the other room.  Every person in the venue knew every single word and note of Sam Fender’s set, it was intense.D233ED22-D0A9-4E3C-913E-74A4EE3C6977

A prime generator of the love Sam Fender receives is Sam’s persona.  He’s the nice lad who you want to do well.  He comes across on stage with his coy smile and confident-but-not-arrogant charm.  He is the lad  you know down the pub who is big into his politics but isn’t a bigmouth so you only know it if you sit down and talk to him.  It feels a pleasure being in the company of him.  This is one of my biggest disappointments.  I don’t want Sam Fender to be a nice guy, I want him to be furious to match the polemic of his songs.  That said the live versions of those songs pack a hell of a lot more punch than on Hypersonic Missiles.  It’s exciting, to me at least, that tracks like The Borders hit me in the chest rather than just make me tap my toes.

Let’s be honest, I was one of those people you might hate at Sam Fender shows…  I was really there for the hit, his album title track, Hypersonic Missiles.  And it did not disappoint me as it was roaring, celebratory, and carried on well after the band had finished playing.  In fact, it carried on after the show had finished as that was what people were walking out singing.  It might be cliched to save the hit until last, but if the setlist had finished on that biggest track then I think people would have enjoyed it more.  I understand why Dancing in the Dark is included in the set, but I think Sam is selling his own work short.  A finish of Hear That Sound and Hypersonic Missiles would be explosive.  Instead with Leave Fast and Saturday in between the two most vital and visceral of Sam’s catalogue it diminishes the power of the finish.

E07AC88B-5002-4445-924B-4A04BA2037D3This gig has not changed my mind on Sam Fender, he’s not the artist for my tastes, but he is a great hope for our music scene as a successful, politically-aware singer pulling in crowds and record sales encourages labels to take the gamble on other artists following that path.  But for those who do love him, I think they are in for a great time over the next few years.

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