Sam Fender is having a bit of a moment. The kind of moment, you suspect, that will lead to a series of moments each bigger than the last. His earnest lament for male suicide ‘Dead Boys’ has become an anthem for the cause. An EP is on the way. An album after that. When Fender played here last as part of Live at Leeds he did so to a tiny room “where no one showed up”. Now he’s selling out a nationwide tour, and a packed room at Church eagerly awaits his return.
Fender may not have many songs yet, but every single one sounds like an anthem. Passion runs through this performance like raw alcohol. Each chorus is a depth charge, going down smooth and clear before exploding with a glass-rattling intensity.
Every song is delivered with such lung-bursting effort, that the conversational banter in between tracks is startling. A powerhouse one moment, and a mate you know from down the pub the next.
He’ll need that ease with the crowd too, because technical issues suspend the set momentarily. Yet Fender takes the chance to sing ‘Thunder Road’ acapella, leaving the crowd silent, before a guitar is returned to him and the show moves on.
‘Play God’ is a sabre-rattling mini epic, channelling the authoritarian stomp of The Kinks’ ‘Living On a Thin Line’. It’s the strongest performance of the night, not just for the excellent refrain, but for the shotgun blasts of kick drum, and birr like riffs which slice through the verses.
When the crowd predictably loses their mind during the instrumental breakdown of ‘Dead Boys’, you sense it’s more than just pint-slinging on a Friday night. You sense a deeper connection. To them, this is more than just a song. And he is more than just a performer.