The fact that twenty-two year-old singer-songwriter Sam Fender has managed to sell out almost every night of his debut UK headline tour (including three back to back nights at London’s Omeara) is a sure sign that we can expect big things from him, and the crowd at a packed Mash House on Monday 29th October are certainly excited about what he has to offer on the tour’s first night.
Following a fantastic warm up set from A Festival, A Parade, Fender and his band begin their set with his 2017 hit ‘Millennial’, and the opening angry drum beat immediately grabs our attention, forcing us to listen intently to an impassioned ode to growing up the 21st century. After a brief spoken introduction, it is straight back to the music, and one of Fender’s most recent hits ‘Dead Boys’ (recently named Annie Mac’s ‘Hottest Record in the World’) comes early on in the set. Instantly recognisable to the crowd, this track gets one of the biggest reactions of the night, and there is certainly a sense of the magnitude of the issues that the record deals with in his performance, which is again deeply impassioned. It is no wonder that this track has become somewhat of an anthem for the issues that many young men face today, and it is truly one of the high points of the evening. Other highlights include Fender’s latest single ‘That Sound’, with an unconventional but superb acapella start, and ‘Greasy Spoon’, where Fender’s connection to each and every audience member is especially felt. Many of the other songs sung over the course of the evening are relatively unknown to the crowd, but if these are taken from Fender’s upcoming album then we are certainly in for a treat.
Fender only properly chats with the audience on a few occasions, instead choosing to play many of his tracks back to back. Whilst this is fantastic for the momentum of his set, many might argue that the audience could benefit from more inter-song dialogue, particularly because when he does speak, his Geordie-charm makes him genuinely funny and endearing. One moment that stands out is when, during an intimate acoustic song towards the end of the evening, the lights flicker out for a few seconds, or when Fender speaks about his track ‘Play God’, telling us that “one of the best days of my life was when this song got on FIFA…” Whilst Fender is reserved in his dialogue, his attitude to music is the opposite, and it is at the end of the set, when the band leaves the stage and he is left with the piano, that we truly feel the raw power and beauty of his voice. The choice to play ‘Leave Fast’ as his finale is perhaps Fender’s most clever of the evening, leaving the audience chilled into a stunned silence at the sheer beauty of his stripped-back vocal prowess, and in no doubt that he is certainly one to watch.