Review: Sam Fender amplifies crowd with catchy tracks at Leeds' O2 Academy

Electric doesn’t quite do justice to the vibe oozed by the crowd packed into Leeds’ O2 Academy at Sam Fender’s sold out date in the city.

Friday, 29th November 2019, 11:45 am
Handout of North East singer Sam Fender, who is playing a string of UK gigs as part of his winter tour. Picture: Polydor Records

At just 25, the Geordie musician has had quite a year, scooping a Brit Critics Choice Award in February and playing out with his UK tour ahead of several arena dates in the New Year.

He’s also due to support The Killers on their UK 2020 tour.

So to say these smaller gigs are something of a warm up for the North Shields lad, we can expect a hell of show when Sam next rolls into town at the First Direct Arena in April.

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The concert’s opening track Will We Talk? seems arguably apt, bursting onto stage with anthemic guitar and the lyrics ‘Blue Monday blaring loudly out the speaker’.

Fender’s lyrics are undeniably politically-charged, as is the atmosphere at the gig. Tracks such as Millennial, White Privilege and Hypersonic Missiles touch on issues that are under the skin and, at times, raw.

This is echoed in the striking cartoon visuals projected on the backdrop behind the band, which at one point displays interchanging caricatures of Trump and Boris Johnson superimposed onto giant demonic beasts.

“This song is probably the closest I’ve come so far to what I want to sound like”, Fender tells the crowd jaunting into next track The Borders, which he claims is “my favourite off the album”.

And it seems the crowd agrees, as fans jump up and down screaming back the words and going wild for the solo played by the saxophonist wearing a Newcastle United shirt.

The story-telling in Fender’s lyrics have undeniably struck a chord with a disillusioned generation, tapping into a political anxiety bubbling under the surface - a theme which continues in the emotional energy of Dead Boys.

In the track, which Fender dedicates to his hometown of North Shields, he touches upon the issue of male suicide and the seeming breakdown in communication it brings with it.

Fender’s sound is anthemic, dynamic and forceful but in no way aggressive; his lyrics are compelling, stirring and, at times, moving and poetic. Particularly in Dead Boys, which is a vastly underrated song deserving of being broadcast from every radio station.

The crowds at the O2 give back the energy projected by Fender and his band with gusto, with chants of ‘Yorkshire! Yorkshire!’, to which the singer replies by dedicating track That Sound to ‘the best cup of tea’ Yorkshire Tea.

To finish, he plays out covering two classic anthems - Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark and Morning Glory by Oasis, the second of which is a one-off just for Leeds. We’ll hold him to that.

Sam Fender returns to Leeds on April 2, 2020, playing at the First Direct Arena for his Hypersonic Missiles tour. Tickets are still available to book here.