Review: Sam Fender whets appetites for his arena rock moment
“Live From Finsbury Park” and “Seventeen Going Under Deluxe Edition” by Sam Fender (Geffen)
It’s an interesting play to release a live album just as you’re emerging as an artist of arena rock stature. But that’s exactly what Sam Fender has done with “Live From Finsbury Park.”
Turns out it’s not a bad idea.
That’s because the album, recorded in July at an outdoor concert in London, will only whet the appetite of worldwide audiences who have discovered Fender’s angsty, substantial rock and roll but haven’t seen him live. He released it on vinyl, in tandem with a deluxe CD edition of his breakthrough 2021 release, “Seventeen Going Under” that includes two solid new cuts.
Tickets will be harder to come by now.
Fender hails from a working-class seaside town in northeast England, and his music has been compared to Bruce Springsteen. That’s fair. He has acknowledged in interviews that Springsteen is his favorite artist, even as he says the comparisons don’t do him any favors.
The similarities surface in concert more than on his studio work. The sound of 45,000 people singing along with gusto to every achy lyric of Fender’s brilliant song, “Seventeen Going Under,” will feel familiar to Springsteen fans. So will the crowd spontaneously carrying on with the “oh-wo-wo-wo-wo” melody well after the band stops playing.
But Fender is no copycat. He’s so direct and honest in his delivery that he connects with audiences on his own terms. His sound is identifiably British, and he writes soaring, anthemic songs that rarely feel derivative and sings them with passion and conviction.
He sings about his father on “Spit of You” (“I can talk to anyone, but I can’t talk to you”), and of mental illness on “Dead Boys,” a song about young men he grew up with who didn’t make it. He sings about difficult relationships, lost relatives, faith, hope and regret. His experiences are his own, but he makes it all feel universal.
Fender has played in New York and Los Angeles but canceled North American concert dates earlier this year to look after his own mental health. This new music makes it a near certainty that his audience will be there when he’s ready, primed to sing along.
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