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Review: Sam Fender & Brooke Bentham at Rock City

A night with Sam Fender at Rock City on the 26th November provided a much more intimate gig than you would expect from such a rising star, whose debut album, Hypersonic Missiles, hit number one on the UK charts upon it’s release.

The support act for the night was London-based singer-songwriter and old friend of Fender, Brooke Bentham. “Thank you all for coming early,” she said addressing the already mostly full venue, and it was nice to see so much audience appreciation for a support act. But as the singer’s set continued, it was made clear that no one minded coming ‘early’ for such a talented artist. Bentham’s folk-tinged indie rock music displayed the singer’s impressive range and powerful vocals and provided the audience with an electrifying show before Fender even came close to the stage.

When her half an hour set was almost over, the singer coyly announced that this was “not a bad way to spend a birthday”, but after the rapturous applause and warm engagement she got from the crowd it’s hard to believe anything but the fact that this will be the first of many birthdays spent in similar ways.

Brooke Bentham’s debut album ‘Everyday Nothing’ arrives on the 28th of February.

Sam Fender (left) and Brooke Bentham (right) at Rock City, 26th November

When Fender finally stepped on stage to the opening of his euphoric single ‘Will We Talk?’, an eager crowd greeted him with a cacophony of applause and cheers, that soon turned to singing the words of his song back to him.

“We were in Glasgow last night, so you guys have got a lot to live up to,” he declared after having seen the audience already go wild one song into his set. And live up to Glasgow, Nottingham did.

The energy didn’t drop for a second, with Fender playing songs from before his debut album such as ‘Greasy Spoon’ and ‘Millennial’, and the crowd didn’t miss a beat, reciting lyric after lyric back to the Geordie singer. That is until Fender played a song that he announced didn’t make the album, but he is planning to release soon, ‘All Is on My Side’. A song that got nothing less than a warm reception from the adoring crowd.

Between songs, we got to see Fender introduce the band, including his good friend Deano, who wore a hat from a pub they both used to work in and Fender claimed he never took off. We got to learn even more about Deano, when Fender told a story about them recording ‘Play God’ in his mother’s flat years before.

Fender’s mastery over a crowd could not be denied as he played undeniable crowd favourites, such as ‘The Borders’ and ‘Hypersonic Missiles’, with a never-tiring stage presence and constant interaction with the crowd.

“Give yourselves a round of applause, ‘cause that was f****ng fantastic, Nottingham’, he announced to the audience’s delight after one particularly energetic response to a song.

Though, despite the roaring and fairly big crowd, the gig had a surprising amount of intimacy. Crowds singing along to Fender’s more melancholic songs displayed a connection between what was happening on stage and those watching, with a massive reaction to his single ‘Dead Boys’ that addresses male suicide and was written after the death of two close friends. The same goes for his song ‘Leave Fast’, the first part of Fender’s four-song encore. He sang the song alone on stage, with nothing but a guitar and the audience singing along as backing.

The concert closed out on his songs ‘Saturday’, ‘That Sound’ and a cover of Springsteen’s ‘Dancing in the Dark’, all of which carried the same energy that had never wavered throughout the show.

The show was a real celebration of Fender’s talent and his music. With his clean, never-tiring vocals and impactful songs bolstered by an energetic band, it’s no wonder the tour is sold out and had to have extra shows added. If you didn’t manage to get tickets, don’t fret. Sam Fender is clearly going nowhere fast and is sure to have many more tours.

Words and photos by Robbie Nicholls

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