LIVE: Sam Fender @ O2 Victoria Warehouse, Manchester

Fender’s take on heartland rock delves into his own life, with songs that are intertwined with stories, people, and experiences that everyone can relate to, and he provided the Manchester crowd with a performance the reflected their own lives.
Posted: 18 September 2021 Words: Abi White

"GET OFF THE METRO NOW!" was jokingly shouted as people hopped off Manchester’s own Metrolink on the way to see North Shields lad Sam Fender at O2 Victoria Warehouse. Referencing Fender’s ‘Howden Aldi Death Queue’, a lot has changed since he penned that track.

‘Woah woah woah woah woah woah woah, keep your distance, woah woah woah woah woah, that's less than two meters’ seems ironic now, as the 3,500-capacity sold out show huddled up next to each other eager to get a glimpse of the stage. 

With 18 long months without live music you could say it was ‘a breath of fresh air’, but again ironically, it was great to share the same air with thousands of other adorning live music fans. Any anxieties of being in a packed-out room soon faded away as the crowd were once more reunited through singing, dancing, and Sam Fender.

It’s been two years since Fender’s debut album, Hypersonic Missiles was released; enough time for his Mancunian fans to be able to recite the songs back to him and his band word for word. Delving into his life, Fender’s tracks are intertwined with stories, people, and experiences that everyone can relate to, providing the crowd with a soundtrack to their own lives.

As the glitching synth reverberated through the warehouse to open the show with ‘Will We Talk’, the crowd wasted no time in bouncing along to the anthemic drums and thrusting themselves into the first mosh pit of the night.

The singalong tracks were placed early on in the set too, with ‘Dead Boys’ and ‘All is on My Side’ following, exposing Fender’s raw yet dazzling vocals. He sings with honesty and emotion which pairs beautifully with the sax in his tracks; they feel timeless too, filled with inspiration from the decades with a sprinkling of modern issues on top.

The juxtaposition of Fender’s versatility is immense too, quickly switching up the singalongs for abrasive heavier tracks that once again open up the mosh pits, although despite the abrasiveness, Fender’s kind-hearted personality exudes as he tells the audience to look out for each other: "if anyone falls down, you help them back up, okay?"

With a setlist divided up into singalongs, heavier tracks, and his newest introspective additions ‘Get You Down’ and ‘Seventeen Going Under’, the nostalgia laced within these tracks seemed to resonate with everyone in the room, before Fender paid homage to one of his biggest influences, Bruce Springsteen. Armed with just his guitar, the beautiful melody of ‘Dancing in the Dark’ echoed around the room and the crowd became fixated on singing the words back to him.

"We wrote 60 songs for this next album but only 11 made it, do you mind if I play you one that didn’t make it?" Sam politely asked, before treating the Manchester crowd to the unreleased ‘The Wild Great Ocean’. 

Soaring through his debut album, new tracks, covers, and exclusives, Fender rounded off his set with 3,500 voices singing along to ‘Saturday’ and ‘Hypersonic Missiles’: it was a rocket-propelled 13-track performance that flew by. 

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