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Sam Fender kicks off series of gigs at ‘World’s first socially-distanced arena’

Written by Live Reviews, Music

The North Shields born singer-songwriter, Sam Fender, revitalised the U.K.’s live music scene by kicking off a series of the nation’s first socially distanced gigs, with an electric performance at the pop-up Virgin Money Unity Arena on Gosforth Park, Newcastle.

About 2,500 fans gathered on 500 socially distanced ‘viewing pods’ on Tuesday 11th August to hear the Brit Award winner break the 5 month period of silence by performing songs from his chart-topping debut album, Hypersonic Missiles, at the first large gig since the nationwide lockdown began.

Image: Amelia Thorpe

The fact that audience members could go to the bar and the toilets without losing their prime viewing spot meant there was little over-crowing anywhere in the arena. Special measures and rules were also put in place to protect the audience members and staff including the obligation to: wear masks when walking around the venue, regularly use the hand sanitizer provided, arrive and depart only by car or taxi and, of course, maintain social distancing. It was a live performance that will undoubtedly go down in music history as the first of many socially distanced gigs and I was proud to be there in-amongst it all.

Prior to Tuesday, I personally had no idea that gigs were back up and running again, as in my mind social distancing and gigs were two very mutually exclusive concepts, so when my friend asked me  if I wanted to volunteer at the Sam Fender gig I was confused but enthusiastic nonetheless. I turned up, signed up, and walked up to the arena, which I was in awe at; rows upon rows of little raised metal enclosures lining the field in front of the stage. I, along with the other volunteers were briefed, given clear visors to wear throughout the night, and assigned to our jobs, mine was mainly litter picking, handing out foldable chairs and cleaning some of the many portable toilets. The sun blazed as the concert-goers arrived in their groups of up to five, some whom had even travelled from as far away as Wales to see the local indie legend.

Opening the gig at 8pm saw, local indie artist, HEIDI, hype the crowd up with her blend of beautiful vocals and catchy lyrics. In terms of style and genre, she was the perfect opener for Sam, and her performance was a hit with the audience.

Image: Amelia Thorpe

After HEIDI’s performance, the crowd’s anticipation was at an all-time high for Sam Fender who opened his 90 minute long set with the popular ‘Will We Talk?’ The crowd immediately erupted, proving that months of preparation in isolation from Sam had quite clearly paid off with his captivating show. Continuing through a set-list including ‘The Borders’, ‘Hold Out’, ‘Spice’, and ‘Dead Boys’, Sam owned the stage confidently and with the zest of a veteran. Sam then returned alone for his encore, performing ‘Leave Fast’ and ‘Poundshop Kardashians’, before ending the night with an emotional rendition of ‘Hypersonic Missiles’. His show, packed full of powerful vocals and catchy instrumentals, coupled with his signature on-stage banter and audience engagement, made it just about everything you could possibly want for a return to live music.

And yes, it was different to a pre-lockdown gig, but when a show is able to give an audience that same excitement and escapism whilst also keeping everyone safe and healthy, it is a huge step in the right direction.

Last modified: 19th August 2020

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