Review: Sam Fender at St James Park
Local Hero” Live Review: Sam Fender – St James’ Park, Newcastle.
A guest review. Words and Photos by Adam Kennedy.
On Friday, the day had finally arrived for Sam Fender to grace the stage of Newcastle’s sporting mecca St James’ Park. The North Shields native recently supported his idol Bruce Springsteen in Italy. But on Friday evening, the esteemed artist got to tick off a further bucket list item by playing at none other than the home of Newcastle United Football Club.
Friday’s event was the first of two shows at the legendary stadium, where Fender followed in the footsteps of musical legends such as Bob Dylan, Queen and Ed Sheeran, who had played there before him.
As Fender-mania swept across the region, even bakers Greggs got in on the action with a whole raft of Fender’s Unplugged events taking place at their Grainger Street store. During the weekend, Greggs very first pop-up dive bar featured appearances from North-East talent such as Cortney Dixon and Kay Grayson, to name but a few.
Of course, demand for Sam Fender’s two-night St James’ Park run was unprecedented. Both shows sold out almost immediately.
To commemorate the shows, it was announced on Friday that Sam Fender has launched special limited edition picture discs of his upcoming third album, which will be released next year. There will be two different, unique picture discs – one for each night of the show – that will feature photos from the gigs and be a special collector’s edition for the fans.
For those in attendance early in the evening the North East’s own Hector Gannet got the proceedings underway. Whilst chart-topping sensations Holly Humberstone and Ireland’s Inhaler provided much enjoyable pre-Fender entertainment.
Humberstone struck a chord with the Geordies by wearing a two-piece outfit fashioned from a black and white Newcastle United shirt.
As the crowd eagerly awaited the arrival of Sam Fender, the atmosphere inside the ground was at a fever pitch. Particularly when The Beatles Hey Jude played over the PA moments before the star of the show took to the stage.
But it was the region’s own superstar who was always going to make headlines on this day. It seems like for some time that a show at St James’ Park was always going to be Sam Fender’s destiny. The atmosphere inside of his concerts in recent times have been comparable to that of a match-day crowd, and Friday’s show was much of the same.
As has become customary, Black and White flags flew high through the air as the electrifying sounds of Mark Knopfler’s Local Hero resonated throughout the hallowed ground with Johnny ‘Bluehat’ Davis accompanying on saxophone along with several members of the band. The roar from inside the stadium was astonishing as Fender took to the stage with a rousing rendition of Will We Talk, which was promptly followed by Getting Started.
Fender arrived on stage wearing a retro Newcastle United training top and grasping his trusty axe. But he was not alone in his attire, black and white shirts filled the venue as far as the eye could see. Frequent chants of Toon resonated around the stadium.
Throughout the week, speculation mounted about potential special guest appearances. On Friday evening, it was the turn of Sam’s brother Liam Fender, who joined the headliner during a cover of the Bruce Springsteen classic I’m On Fire.
There is one thing that Sam Fender certainly has in his repertoire, and that’s a whole raft of singalong anthems. Throughout the show, fans hung on every word of crowd pleasers such as Dead Boys, The Borders, Spice and a mosh pit-inducing rendition of Howdon Aldi Death Queue. Whilst pyrotechnics and fireworks illuminated the stadium frequently throughout the performance.
Highlights of the show included a wonderful airing of Get You Down and the classic Play God. Emotions ran high during an emotive main set closer of Dying Light, which saw Fender start the song from behind a piano stationed at the rear of the stage. Mobile phone lights twinkled across the stadium throughout the song.
The show reached its explosive conclusion with indie rock anthems Seventeen Going Under and the unmistakable Hypersonic Missiles.
Just like the statues of North East greats like Sir Bobby Robson and Alan Shearer situated outside ofthe entrance of St James’ Park, Sam Fender has ascended to that of one of the region’s local heroes.
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