Sam Fender connects with an adoring crowd at TRNSMT festival

The singer brings confronting lyrics and political fire to Glasgow Green

Glasgow is a “home away from home” to Geordie singer Sam Fender, as he tells the crowd. He’s certainly loved by the city, who in danger of losing their voices for him before he’s even made it to the end of his opener, ‘Will We Talk?’ The TRNSMT crowd has hardly been subdued all day but suddenly there’s even more of a push to get close, with groups of tightly packed people jostling around almost on top of each other. When he asks them to jump, they do (no one asks “how high?”). “Let’s see you dance!” he encourages, and they go wild. “This one isn’t really a moshing song, to be fair,” he admits, preceding ‘Get You Down’. “Let’s have a good singalong.” They oblige.

Five years after the release of his debut single, Fender is poised to become one of the UK’s biggest rock acts. His biggest hit so far has been 2021’s coming-of-age story ‘Seventeen Going Under’, but with two number one albums under his belt, there’s plenty more tracks in Fender’s catalogue that have resonated with young people across the country. Fender writes anthems, songs with infectious guitar riffs and toe-tapping drums that make a crowd of people want to jump up and down for a straight sixty minutes. There’s an intimacy to his lyricism that probably suits smaller venues in a different way, but watching him play to the thousands of festival goers packed into Glasgow Green, it does feel as if he’s in his natural habitat.

It’s an emotional hour. Fender and the crowd celebrate to ‘Getting Started’, get choked up to ‘Spit Of You’, and channel their political frustrations into three separate chants. When he brings the volume down for a few lines of ‘Spice’, a criticism of the system that sends many working-class boys down a self-destructive path, there’s a palpable tension. Fender’s story resonates with so many in the audience and it’s no wonder that they idolise him. He turns away from them to shred, flames spitting from the stage, and there’s a roar from the crowd. It feels like a cathartic release of anger. Anger is just below the surface in a lot of Fender’s music. ‘Dead Boys’ discusses how British culture neglects the issue of male suicide. ‘Seventeen Going Under’ – which elicits a cheer from the crowd so loud you’d think they were surprised he was playing it – is a heartbreaking look back at the way poverty threatened to drag down a teenaged Fender. But it’s a productive anger, and within the cheering crowd, there’s hope in it. As the rain starts to come down, almost everyone sticks around, still hanging on every lyric. There’s a feeling that as Fender’s crowds get bigger and his tracks chart higher, things might start trending in the right direction.

Sam Fender is playing London’s Finsbury Park on 15 July. Find tickets here.