TVD Live Shots: Sam Fender at Alexandra Palace, 11/21

The most prominent breakout artist in recent memory is at a pinnacle here in the UK, and his sights are now set on the rest of the world. Sam Fender is the real fucking deal and one of the most talented singer-songwriters of the past decade.

I like to think of him as the Bruce Springsteen for people who hate Bruce Springsteen (or don’t get Born to Run). His songs bring the voice of the working class together with the challenges and struggles of a new generation. His maturity and insight to write songs of this magnitude at such a young age are a sign of an extraordinary musician. It’s like watching an early Bono preparing for his Joshua Tree moment. And that’s precisely where we find the 27-year-old Sam Fender.

He’s clearly beaten the music industry’s much-feared “sophomore jinx” with his latest record Seventeen Going Under. It’s the perfect continuation and evolution from his celebrated and critically acclaimed debut Hypersonic Missiles. But the question remains, will the rest of the world get it?

The US is the most significant opportunity here set against a backdrop of incredible bands from the UK historically finding it difficult to replicate their European success in the States’ over-saturated, disposable pop-fueled scene. This isn’t a case where “you need to see the live show to get it.” It’s more about just hearing the songs for the first time and THEN having the live show seal the deal. That’s precisely what happened in my case.

I found myself at the sold-out show in an absolutely jam-packed Ally Pally in North London, completely enthralled by the live show and especially the songs from the new record. “Seventeen Going Under” was like a rallying cry of inspiration for every person in the room. Sonically it was overwhelming, in a good way, with the layers upon layers of his talented band filling the room as if you were in the studio with him during the recording. It was fucking magical.

Even the slower songs came across beautifully in the massive complex. “Spit of You” was the only point of the gig where the audience had a chance to breathe before Fender turned it up another notch and even went a bit mental for a couple of songs which got a pit going in the front of the crowd and begging the question—is there anything this guy can’t do?

“Get You Down” was probably my favorite moment of the show. This is one of those songs that gives you the chills as it continues to build, and you find yourself getting lost in the simplicity of the music while focusing on the story. (The saxophone in this song is really something else.) A simple perusal through the YouTube comments for the video really says it all, with my favorite being: “People will listen to this in 50 years’ time, and it’ll still be as powerful. Excellent music is timeless. Crack on Sam. Bloody ripper video too.”

With all of Fender’s success, the biggest challenge still lies ahead. How will he break into the US market? I’m guessing that the string of shows which happened here in London and the two coming up in February at Wembley arena are setting up the UK for a break from Sam while he goes to relentlessly tour the US for the majority, if not all of 2022.

He’s got the buzz, the live show, the songs—now he just needs people to pay attention. Watch out folks, Sam Fender is likely to take over the world next year, and I can’t wait to see what he does next. If you are reading this from the States and are not familiar with Fender, start with the songs “Hypersonic Missiles” and “Will We Talk” from his first album, then dive head first into the new one from start to finish. You’ll thank me later.

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