Sam Fender has had an incredible year and tonight he is in Sydney. Fender’s powerful performance at Glastonbury this year has become the stuff of legend. Apart from his rip roaring live shows, he has won a stack of awards, including an Ivor Novello for his hit ‘Seventeen Going Under‘. The North Tyneside singer’s admiration for Bruce Springsteen is well known and I can’t help but wonder how well Fender’s live performance will compare to that of the Boss. There’s a Newcastle United flag draped on the stage, a reminder this is definitely not a New Jersey boy!
In the lead up to Fender’s appearance, there is an interesting selection of music playing to get the crowd into the mood. Naturally Springsteen’s ‘Born To Run’ is there, and also ‘Hertz’ by Amyl and the Sniffers. But the choice of song for Fender and his band as they take the stage is Stevie Nicks’ classic ‘Edge of Seventeen‘. It’s the perfect nod to his most famous song to date. Fender looks happy and relaxed, despite the fact that he cancelled some tour dates to take care of his mental health.
The crowd erupts and massive singalongs ensue as Fender rushes through his set. The interplay between him and saxophonist, Johnny ‘Blue Hat’ Davis is reminiscent of how Springsteen interacted and pivoted off the work of the late Clarence Clemons. That is not the only similarity here tonight, the crowd is holding up placards requesting songs – exactly as happens at a Springsteen concert. Fender’s songs lurch from the personal, covering his relationship with his father (‘Spit Of You’) to the political (‘Hypersonic Missiles’) but all are delivered from the heart. The crowd has to wait until the encore to hear ‘Seventeen Going Under’ and it is worth the wait, fists are pumping and the crowd sings along to this intimate song about the challenges Fender faced as a youngster. Everyone can relate, to some extent. Great performers through their music allow us to transcend the mundanities of our everyday existence. For a few hours at their live shows, we are lifted to a higher, blissful place. That is the gift that musicians such as Springsteen and Fender confer on us and that is very much on show tonight as I glance around at the gleeful faces of the crowd.