Culture, Music, Review

Live Review: Brooke Bentham + Sam Fender @ Manchester Academy 1

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By Camilla Whitfield

Selling out Academy 1 would be a confidence booster for most, but for Sam Fender, whose career has skyrocketed at breakneck speed, it was just another addition to his already star-studded resume.

The venue filled up quickly and a member of the audience passed out before anyone could even set foot on the stage, probably due to a long wait outside. A testament, perhaps, to his dedicated fanbase. Fender’s infamous kebab and ‘Newcastle Brown Ale’ style merchandise was on display at the entrance, a sign that he is not only one of Newcastle’s hottest commodities, but also the world. His debut album Hypersonic Missiles shot straight to Number 1 and this show was set to be just as explosive.

Before Fender could take to the stage, artist Brooke Bentham used her support slot to warm up the crowd. A fellow Newcastle native, her music follows in a similar vein to the headliner. Her alternative-rock songs exhibit a singer much wiser than her years, that are both relatable and exude a high level of maturity.

Clutching her pale blue metallic guitar and wearing a kilt, docs and a fringed jacket, Bentham was ready to wow. She looked angelic under the white lights performing her signature hits, of which ‘Out of My Mind’ was the heaviest. The gritty guitar playing matched her sultry vocals perfectly, as she stated: “I don’t need that shit/ don’t believe in it”. Furthermore, the repetition of the lyric “mind” conveyed the carousel-like tendency of thoughts swirling around your head.

Her alternative-rock songs exhibit a singer much wiser than her years.

Bentham is ever humble – midway through the set she exclaimed to the crowd “there’s so many of you”. Her vocals easily reached the back, and despite her saying “I’ve got no jokes” in-between songs whilst holding a takeaway cup of tea, her performance didn’t need any comedic embellishment. It was magical just as it was, a classic stripped back half-hour of talent.

The set ended with her latest track ‘Perform For You’, featuring the uneven power dynamics which come with a tumultuous broken-down relationship. It demonstrates her prowess with lyrics such as “Treat me like a helpless toy and I’ll perform for you/ Tell me why you do not love me/ You know I still love you, too”. Her voice conveyed so much raw emotion, especially powerful when witnessed live. Bentham is releasing her debut album Everything Nothing on 28th February, and her headline shows are in March- grab your tickets here.

Her voice conveyed so much raw emotion, especially powerful when witnessed live.

After almost being outshined by the crowd singing the melody for his hit track ‘Hypersonic Missiles’ and his stage technician playing a game of call and response with the crowd, Sam Fender emerged. He promptly stormed into ‘Will We Talk?’ from his debut album Hypersonic Missiles released in September of this year, followed by the equally powerful track ‘Millennial’. As soon as Fender sang “This tune is the Gospel”, the audience was singing it back. Their set was littered with both old favourites and some of his new releases, celebrating the tracks which shot him to fame and will surely secure his future in music.

‘Greasy Spoon’ is one of his earliest tracks and with the orange light appearing like a sunrise in the dark, it was just as dramatic as his other high- powered tunes. Fender himself even announced it as “a melodic one”, as there’s pure emotion layered into the song. His soulful rendition of the line “I am a woman” was reminiscent of his gritty songwriting, and how he focuses on difficult social issues. It’s refreshing to watch an artist who genuinely believes they can change the world with their guitar.

Always focusing on relationships too, we were told to “Grab someone you love” for his next track “All is on my side”, which incidentally will be released in a few weeks time. Another soft and melodic track, it heralded the appearance of friend and saxophonist Johnny ‘Bluehat’ Davis, who entered wearing a Newcastle United football strip and headband, in keeping with his, and Fender’s hometown. Davis was also given the spotlight in the next track ‘The Borders’, which is Fender’s self-proclaimed favourite song on the album. He recalled being in the studio with Davis and making something he was proud of. It was his best performance of the night.

It’s refreshing to watch an artist who genuinely believes they can change the world with their guitar.

Track ‘Dead Boys’ signalled the beginning of a proper mosh pit which carried into the next track ‘Spice’. Mancunian’s always appear to have unmatchable energy and vocal prowess, which was acknowledged by Fender who deemed their singing as “beautiful” – high praise from the man himself.

After their intense performance of ‘Hypersonic Missiles’, Fender warned the crowd that they were going to walk off stage, but it was up to them if they came back. Of course, It wasn’t long before they returned and Fender, prompted by a ‘F*** Boris Johnson’ t-shirt wearer, said “can’t stand the Tories, don’t vote for them and register to vote”, keeping his political views front and centre.

After a dramatic solo, an acoustic performance of ‘Leave Fast’, Fender was reunited with his self-proclaimed “big-brother” Davis for a soulful performance of ‘You’re Not The Only One’. Penultimate song ‘That Sound’ is perhaps one of his most famous, and a track which he has ripped off from every song that comes out of Manchester. In true Fender style, he informed the crowd that “if I’m going to get sued then gonna meet my heroes in court, f*** it!”.

The finale was saved for a cover of his all-time favourite artist Bruce Springsteen, ‘Dancing In The Dark’, which Fender made his own as he belted out “Can’t start a fire without a spark”. The show finished with hard drumming by Drew Michael, the perfect ending for a celebration of talented musicians.

Overall, it was a show demonstrating that the new breed of musicians out there have both style and substance, and are well on their way to paving a new future for music. Sam Fender has recently announced his Spring 2020 tour which is set to be his biggest yet and will surely sell out. Purchase your tickets here while you still can.

About the author / 

Camilla Whitfield

Fourth Year BA English with Overseas Study | Music Editor | Manchester & Leipzig | Music & Gig Enthusiast

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