Sam Fender at Glastonbury 2022 Review – An unforgettable emotional release | Glastonbury 2022

THere are the great career perks of opening a large pyramid theater in Glastonbury: Crowds of 100,000 or more contain everyone from sixties on folding chairs to glistening millennials and teens, exponentially expanding your fan base. But whether it be leylines or macrodosed cider, there is also an intangible and immeasurable charm in this setting that can elevate the artist to another level.

That proves for Sam Fender, a Tyneside singer-songwriter who holds a niche once designated for American rapper Doja Cat, who pulled out due to tonsil surgery. He took advantage of it so hard that the meteorological changes around him: it’s a cliché from Glastonbury to say an artist put out the sun but really Fender seems to have done it, turning away from the spells of rain to leave the stage of the quaintly backlit pyramid.

When it begins, bags of wine are squeezed into their mouths, the children are lifted on their shoulders, and the boys hold each other almost at the neck in blunt expressions of bromance. Fender is the quintessential pop star of Britain who is given to turbulent, long-suppressed feelings: the songs are presented as being about growing up, about hope, and about his father. The problems raised by the previous generation under the sofa came back to light with tenderness and sincerity.

Sam Fender.
Sam Fender. Photo: David Levine/The Guardian

An opening section featuring the spirited kick-off mood, as tough times are cast in a forward-facing upbeat light, turns to melancholy Spice and Howdon’s Aldi Death Queue, a pair of songs with a truly nihilistic bent: Punk guitar notes Can’t seem to get out of line Straight and Fender shouting into the microphone. But as the sun softens, the temperature rises with Get You Down: it’s still tearing itself out but kinder, not actively beating itself. The music amplifies the oxygenated buoyancy of Bruce Springsteen’s classic, emphasized by Johnny Blohat’s sax lines, much like in the mood of the late Clarence Clemons, where there’s a danger of smudging. You can easily imagine Fender singing Springsteen details like “Union Card and Bridal Coat” on the riverbed. But Jordi Fender’s voice is so special, and the anger is so rooted in the particular difficulties of this country, that this predicament is avoided.

This has never been so well proven by Seventeen Going Under. This is simply one of the most powerful performances ever on this stage: a high-speed populist song that drives tens of thousands of people to sing about pent-up shock, the poison of slow anger, and the cruelty of our government against the poor charged with their care. “I see my mom/DWP sees a number,” Fender sings as flags wave cheerfully at sunset: The dissonance makes you swoon. Doesn’t want to end. There were echoes with Radiohead when they performed Karma Police on this stage and Thom Yorke had to sing the last chorus again a cappella. Fender suddenly returns to the “Whoa, oh, oh” chorus after the song ends, the whole crowd in company.

Sam Fender
Photo: David Levine/The Guardian

Much of 21st-century rock circulated in the “whoa-oh-oh” chorus genre, with Arcade Fire’s Wake Up leading to similar collective chants of Kings of Leon, Mumford & Sons, Coldplay, and others. These are sometimes written very ironically but Fender’s, however, are some of the simpler and better, and after Seventeen Going Under the final third of this group is basically a huge single. Crowds have a lot of fun hitting the top of Saturday’s fake notes, and chants of closing Hypersonic Missiles ring long after it’s over, queuing for curries, pizza and beer.

This was the spirited post-Covid performance everyone had been craving, and it was sorely missed. If the rumors are to be believed, the president himself will appear during Paul McCartney’s set tomorrow. But Fender puts on a tough, emotionally-fortified British version of the Springsteen song that matches him perfectly — and, in fact, back home in the Avalon Valley, beats him.

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