sun 15/12/2019

Sam Fender, O2 Academy, Glasgow review - pop bangers with pathos | reviews, news & interviews

Sam Fender, O2 Academy, Glasgow review - pop bangers with pathos

Sam Fender, O2 Academy, Glasgow review - pop bangers with pathos

The Newcastle native was given a rapturous reception

If this is what Sam Fender can provoke on a Monday night, then Lord knows the reaction he generates at a weekend. A chart topping album and sold out tour may mean the Geordie is firmly at pop’s top table now, but it was still impressive the sheer delirium his arrival onstage appeared to generate, a status that lasted throughout the brisk hour or so that followed.

Although a youthful crowd, there were older generations in attendance too, perhaps a reflection of the fact that Fender’s influences tap into a cross-generational appeal. There is little point in pretending the 25 year old is re-inventing the wheel here, but what he has done well is adapt those inspirations into his own identify, offering Springsteen and Petty by way of Newcastle.

Crucially though, the songs have some absolute pop bangers among them. The set opening “Will We Talk?” bounced in like a choice cut from an indie disco, and “The Borders” was pure unadultered Springsteen, a widescreen piece of pop music. “All Is On My Side” possessed the sort of guitar work that called to mind Dire Straits in their pomp, a feeling that grew when a saxophone solo arrived halfway through. Who knew the sax would prove such a pop tool in 2019, but the flourishes here were effectively done.

However there is pathos among the tunes too, and a sharpness that lifts Fender above many of his contemporaries. “Dead Boys”, his stark take on male suicide, was emotive and heartfelt underneath piercing guitar and an escalating beat that carried it to a weighty conclusion, and if “Play God” is not the most subtle political song ever written then it was driven along with a righteous fury, building up to a noisy conclusion.

He is not immune from certain singer-songwriter tropes, of course, including starting the encore with a low key solo track and reminding us all that we have been the best crowd on the tour, while a couple of earlier tracks, such as “Millennial” had a throwaway feel to their indie pop nature.  There is a sense that sometimes he tries to do too much, assimilating all these influences but not always smoothly enough to let them really work.

But Fender rattles through the night with a likeable air, unfazed by the venue size and aided by both a solid backing band and a terrific stage set that featured creative art from Neal Fox, including depictions of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson as monsters, amongst other things. It was an eye-catching backdrop that added vivid character to the night.

It was not exactly a shock when he chose to tackle Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark” for a rambunctious, good-spirited finale. Yet there was some irony here too, because while Fender’s inspirations are obvious, the performance itself, and terrific pop tunes like a dynamic “Hypersonic Missiles”, indicated a legitimate talent in his own right.

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