Sam Fender // O2 Academy, Newcastle, 2019 – Matthew Prudham
The crowd’s chant never dies: “He’s one of our own, he’s one of our own”, they sing over and over again. Yet, I’m not on the terraces of St. James’ Park, watching the Toon Army; I’m down the road at the Academy, waiting for Sam Fender to start the next song of a barnstorming set. Before he starts, though, he joins in the footballing banter, rousing the masses in disavowing Mike Ashley, “the devil of Tyneside”.
The first chords of ‘Saturday’ are heard. Immediately a space is cleared. A brave soul or two dares to stay in the middle, just as a stray gazelle teases a pack of hungry lions. Then, when Fender hits into the bluesy chorus, it’s a landfill of bodies; everyone piles in at once, eager to join this sweaty rock communion. My mate’s now on the other side, as if parted by the Red Sea. The floors of the former bingo hall squeak, its walls shake. It’s a Geordie baptism: the Newcastle Brown Ale moistening my hair; the black and white shirts populating the concert hall; the innate affinity Fender has with his hometown. I’d finally experienced the true Toon passion.