Sam Fender
Sam Fender | Credit: JMEnternational/Getty Images

Sam Fender Review – Bigger and Better Than Before in Sydney

Sam Fender performed at Sydney’s Enmore Theatre on Tuesday, 22nd November. David James Young reviews.

Sam Fender first toured Australia in 2019, initially in support of Irish crooner Dermot Kennedy, then again later that year to play Splendour and some small headline shows. Much like the world around him, a lot has changed in the three years since he was last here. He’s now playing the Enmore Theatre, for one, which has a bigger capacity than the venues of his two previous Sydney shows combined. Fender also hit the big time with his bold, impassioned second album, Seventeen Going Under.

Sam Fender – ‘Seventeen Going Under’

The audience reaction is deafening when Fender and his long-serving backing band assemble across the stage, and somehow gets even louder when they lead into ‘Will We Talk?’ from Fender’s debut album Hypersonic Missiles.

Even after playing festivals like Glastonbury, Fender still seems bewildered by the crowd response within the room. At multiple points, he takes out one of his in-ear monitors to ensure he’s hearing everyone correctly. But even when he could understandably be swallowed whole by the moment, Fender keeps the train on the track like an absolute pro.

He belts out the devastating ‘Dead Boys’ as scratchy cutout figures multiply in the visuals behind him. He wrings out the emotional core of ‘The Borders’ amid rollicking drums and jangly guitars. He performs with so much soul and conviction, it’s difficult to take your eyes off him.

That would be the case, of course, were it not for the colourful ensemble filling the rest of the theatre stage. Fender refers to multi-instrumentalist Joe Atkinson as the band’s “little brother”, and it’s easy to see why; he’s easily the most excitable person on stage. He routinely rouses the audience, calling for them to sing along, and hops about his corner of the riser like a man possessed.

By contrast, saxophonist Johnny Davis keeps his cool. As Homer Simpson once said, though, “He’s gonna do something, and you know it’s gonna be good.” Every time Davis emerges from the woodwork to send a breathless solo to the high heavens, he receives a cheer that could equal those for Fender himself. This silent but deadly jazz-man is the band’s secret weapon.

Sam Fender – ‘Hypersonic Missiles’

According to, Fender has performed the title track of Seventeen Going Under roughly 75 times to date, and the title track to Hypersonic Missiles 121 times. Despite such repetition, however, the one-two punch of this encore finale is, to quote another British rock’n’roll star, fucking biblical.

The former is Fender’s breakthrough moment and it gets the biggest reaction of the evening, with raised fists and index fingers visible above the stomping, shuffling feet of the dance floor. The latter is the last chance for the 2500-strong crowd to let loose, and all comply.

With another rousing cheer and the last of the woah-ohs exuded, Fender and co. take their leave. Although the show is a step up from prior tours, it feels like we’ll be looking back on it in a few years’ time and asking, “Can you believe that he was only playing the Enmore?” Much like his idol Bruce Springsteen, Sam Fender is pulling out of here to win.

Further Reading

Sam Fender And Dave Le’aupepe Cover Bruce Springsteen Live In London

Gang Of Youths Review – Sentimental End to Sydney Band’s Arena Tour

Genesis Owusu Halts Sydney Show After Enmore Theatre Floor Collapses

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