Review: Sam Fender exceeds the hype at teary St James’ Park homecoming

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When Sam Fender took to the St James’ Park stage it was always going to be a landmark moment for the city. And it didn’t disappoint.

As Blaydon Race runners sprint along the Quayside and 52,000 black-and-white sporting locals belt out the Geordie version of 'Hey Jude', there's the impression the North East is about to lift off when Sam Fender strolls on stage.

Over the next hour and 45 minutes, Newcastle does exactly that. St James' Park quakes under the Springsteen-esque rock of the North Shields star and local pride reaches fever pitch as the crowd is heard all across Tyneside.

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A ticket to see Fender play at the home of boyhood club Newcastle United had become gold dust in the region - thousands of fans refreshed re-sale sites like thirsty bloodhounds for months before the show. Geordies knew these two nights at the stadium were unmissable, and they weren't wrong.

The 17 tracks that Fender blasts out looking over the Leazes Stand, where he used to sit and watch the Magpies play, are big and bold flicks that sound mighty over the St James' sound system.

After wittily walking out to the tune of the Champions League anthem, Fender delivers 'We Will Talk?' and 'Getting Started' to a crowd still struggling to swallow the lump in their throat.

Sam Fender fought back tears as he played his first night at St James’ Park (Image: Niall Lea)Sam Fender fought back tears as he played his first night at St James’ Park (Image: Niall Lea)
Sam Fender fought back tears as he played his first night at St James’ Park (Image: Niall Lea) | Niall Lea

'Dead Boys' follows next, the track an almost eerie nod to 'all the dead boys in our hometown', friends and family who couldn't be at St James' Park having lost battles with mental health.

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Big brother Liam Fender - who has launched his own solo career - swaggers on stage for a cover of Bruce Springsteen hit 'I'm on Fire', a highlight of the night. Elsewhere, 'Spice' and 'Howdon Aldi Death Queue' whip up a storm.

St James' Park is known fondly as the cathedral on the hill thanks to the way it sits atop the city and the high regard with which the football club is held. That nickname is more appropriate than ever on Friday night with Fender whipping up an amost religious fervour.

Of course, every church has its choir and as the star plucks the opening of 'Saturday Night' he is hit with an almighty chorus of, 'if Saturday don't come sooon, I'm gonna looose my mind'. No one ever doubted that these Geordies could break the sound barrier.

It gets even louder for hit 'Seventeen Going Under', widely regarded as one of the best modern rock songs, and the singer fights back tears as he bids farewell before 'Hypersonic Missiles'.

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It's a very special night on Tyneside and it's clear that Sam Fender is the face and voice of a thriving North East.

Newcastle United are in Europe, investment is flooding into the city and the local lad from down the road is living his wildest dreams.

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