Sam Fender @Newcastle Utilita Arena, November 18 2021

After two postponements and more than 18 months of a global pandemic, Sam Fender finally took to an arena stage on the banks of the Tyne to deliver an incredible performance in front of his hometown acolytes.

Originally slated for April 2020, the tour had been pushed back a couple of times due to the ongoing logistical and health issues that have ensnared the world.

During those tempestuous times, Fender’s stock has risen thanks in no small part to his excellent sophomore album Seventeen Going Under.

With expectations firmly on the rise — and Fender even labelled in some quarters as the saviour of British guitar rock — the local hero had some lofty hopes to live up to.

He needn’t have worried…

From the moment Mark Knopfler’s Coming Home blared out, the partisan crowd were more than ready to get behind his homecoming.

Thousands of fans singing along to a track that has no lyrics, as giant Newcastle United flags proudly waved in front of the stage, was just a small indication of what was to prove a reoccurring theme throughout the 15-track set.

Kicking things off with Will We Talk, the entire sold-out arena exploded into life. Standing section or otherwise, every ticketholder took to their feet.

Echoes of ‘Toon Toon, black and white army’ filled the air — greeted by huge grins from Fender and his entire band.

A two-track, mini mosh pit set of Spice and Howdon Aldi Death Queue punctuated more tender tracks such as Dead Boys and the incredible Spit Of You, showcasing the range of emotion Fender has layered into his work. 

From the youthful exuberance of Hypersonic Missiles to the emotional quandaries posed in his latest album, it’s clear Fender is drawing from experiences of growing up in the North East of England.

Perhaps this explains the hero’s welcome afforded to a 27-year-old lad from North Shields.

Unashamedly Geordie, the feeling of pride seeped from every corner of the arena, from the audience to the stage and vice versa.

Let’s get one thing straight, Fender is as Geordie as Jimmy Nail eating a pease pudding stottie from Greggs.

Video by st1973 trotter

There’s something distinctly intangible about his music that connects with not only those of the same age, background or even gender, but a much wider fanbase.

Perhaps it’s best summed up in the lofty and flattering comparisons to Bruce Springsteen, something Fender steered into by performing an acoustic version of Dancing In The Dark to open his encore.

Tracks about life in your region. Check. Sprinkle in a brass section. Check. Find your own Clarence Clemons in the shape of saxman Johnny Davis. Double check.

The only comparable way to sum up the night would be a Springsteen show in the middle of a New Jersey factory.

Even a technical hiccup at the beginning of Play God was masked by the audience carrying on Seventeen Going Under’s anthemic ‘woahhhs’.

Confetti, air cannons and one final volume increase from the crowd saw the set close with Hypersonic Missiles.

When he pictured kicking off this particular tour, a visibly emotional and stunned Sam Fender couldn’t have hoped for much more.

In the words of the man himself the night left him with ‘pure lasagne head’.

Local idiom aside, it’ss now time for Fender to show the rest of the country exactly what he and — by proxy — his beloved region are made of.  

Andy Spoors