Sam Fender, take a bow, because that was just an incredible performance at the Brighton Centre in front of a sell out crowd! The Ivor Novello nominee and Brit Award Winner and his band were on fire, playing at the smallest venue on the ‘Seventeen Going Under’ arena tour tonight.
There was a real buzz from the minute I arrived at the venue tonight with fans running up the stairs to the main arena to secure their position as close to the barrier as they could, the merch stand was packed out, I overheard a conversation that someone had gone to change into the three t-shirts they had just bought!
A real bonus for me tonight was getting to also see ‘Goat Girl’ play for the first time, they have been a favourite of mine of late and I really enjoyed their last album ‘On All Fours’ – not only a great album but aesthetically pleasing as well on gatefold. Portsmouth’s Holly Mullineaux also made her recording debut, on bass, for the album with just some of her skills being displayed on the opening to ‘Badibaba’. Goat Girl’s short set consisted mainly of tracks from the second album which included ‘Jazz (In the Supermarket), ‘The Crack’ and ‘Sad Cowboy’.
The energy in the crowd was building the closer we got to Sam’s expected stage time and the excitement was definitely rubbing off on myself and fellow photographer Hannah in the pit. When the lights dropped the crowd noise and screams were deafening! Sam’s keyboard player, Joe Atkinson was one of the first onto stage, gesturing to the crowd and whipping up more of a frenzy before Sam appeared to even more adulation. Taking his namesake guitar in hand, Fender took little time in getting under way with ‘Will We Talk?’ from his debut album ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ before moving into ‘Getting Started’ and the thought provoking ‘Dead Boys’.
One of the many things that endears Fender to a lot of people, including myself, is how relatable he is, given his remarkable rise to prominence. He still is the local Geordie lad that heads down the pub for a few with his mates. Sam shares with the crowd that he had to visit a Brighton dentist today to get his wisdom teeth seen to and grab some antibiotics, despite his pain his voice was as strong as ever.
Getting some of the slower numbers out of the way (Fender’s words), the band move into playing ‘Spice’ and faster more ferocious ‘Howden Aldi Death Queue’ which sees lights lowered from above and strobe away with a red backdrop.
A real moment for me was during ‘Spit Of You’, I looked up to take in the crowd around me and to my left in the seated area I caught a glimpse of a girl with her hands on her chest, adorning a Sam Fender T-shirt, singing word for word. I got a sense that everything that mattered to her was was right there in those moments and, for me, that is the beautiful side that music evokes. I don’t think I’ll forget that moment for a while yet.
‘Play God’ which launched Fender into the mainstream had to be restarted as there was concern for someone in the front row, such is his awareness for his fans. I remember when I first heard this song played on BBC 6 Music during an Introducing section some 4-5 years ago, it was clear it would only be a matter of time before it all began properly for him.
The multitalented Fender jumped to the back of stage to play some piano on ‘The Dying Light’ before returning to front and centre on the guitar. This was to be last track before returning for a very strong encore. This saw Sam initially return on his own and begin to play a solo of ‘Saturday’ which immediately causes the crowd to begin singing ‘And if Saturday don’t come soon, I’m gonna lose my mind’, the band then join him to play the track in full. The second album title track ‘Seventeen Going Under’ draws a big reaction from the crowd with people aloft on shoulders before the set is drawn to an end with confetti cannons half way through ‘Hypersonic Missiles’.
Sam is due to play a huge headline show at Finsbury Park, London in the summer with limited tickets still available. In his own words, ‘go and join the lads from North Shields who are already sh@$ting themselves to play in front of 45,000 people’!