Sam Fender @Newcastle O2 City Hall, May 24 2022
On more than one occasion a visibly emotional Sam Fender paused to reflect on the latest — and possibly greatest — career goal ticked off the list.
Standing tall inside the City Hall, the North East’s favourite son had long dreamed of following the region’s rock and roll trailblazers onto a stage synonymous with history-making music.
And when the moment arrived it didn’t disappoint.
This most evocative of venues still echoes to the sounds of Eric Burdon, Hilton Valentine, Alan Hull, David Coverdale, Paul Rodgers, Bryan Ferry, Brian Johnson, Andy Taylor, Sting et al.
Mark Knopfler enjoyed many a memorable night connecting with his hometown crowd within Tyneside’s very own Hall Of Fame.
And it’s no coincidence that Fender and his band still pay homage to the most loved of adopted Geordies by walking on to a spine-tingling version of Local Hero every night.
For a lad who remembered tales of his dad’s own heroes treading these very same boards, there was almost an air of suspended belief surrounding a truly special show.
In fact, there were even times when the main man looked like the occasion might get the better of him.
But a few deep breaths and another of those timely pauses just about settled the nerves.
And Fender did his forefathers — and his father — proud on a night celebrating home, family and a familiarly strong sense of community.
This wasn’t the biggest gig a band of like-minded brothers had ever played.
But as Fender pointed out: ‘size isn’t everything’.
The newly-refurbished O2 City Hall might cater for fewer than 2,200 but it’s impossible to put a number on this famous old venue’s enduring capacity for tugging at the heart strings.
Add in the fact that Fender had taken the opportunity to support North East Homeless — with many of the charity’s staff and volunteers watching on from the balcony — and the size of the crowd barely reflected the scale of a grand and game-changing gesture.
That more than £130,000 was raised for the North Shields-based organisation said everything about a fast-rising rock icon in no danger of forgetting his roots.
And at the end of the night that remarkable figure almost eclipsed a dazzling set showcasing the rapid rise of an unstoppable creative force.
Performing live for the first time since he picked up a prestigious Ivor Novello award for Seventeen Going Under, Fender fought off the nerves to emerge victorious.
Rattling through Getting Started, Dead Boys and the raucous Howdon Aldi Death Queue (imagine that tune picking up an Ivor Novello), the 28-year-old loved every minute of a memorable City Hall bow.
And given the significance of his father’s affection for the place, there was an added poignancy to another touching take on the moving Spit Of You.
Earlier Heidi Curtis — commonly referred to by Fender as ‘like his little sister’ — delivered a perfectly pitched set of dreamy, folk-tinged indie pop.
And it’s surely only a matter of time before another of the North East’s most exciting musical talents ascends to the next level. Watch this space.