Remember your roots when you make it big, as Sam Fender so often does with his recordings. The Geordie star and local hero has hit on a great consistency which ties his experiences of youth to the ever-present need to be spoken to about similar topics. His music does just that, Seventeen Going Under particularly well, even more now it has had two years to settle and looks toward a sold-out St. James’ Park crowd. Fender took Live at Capitol Studios as a chance to exorcise three of his earliest tracks, a real gem of an EP which hits through the classic tracks of his Hypersonic Missiles release. Where the gap between his two chart-topping albums is nothing major thematically, it is an intense rediscovery so many years on, which brings Fender fans to a small studio instead of a stadium.
Three tracks to showcase Fender on his lonesome, stripping back staple tracks of his discography. He has plenty to choose from now but in this raw period of debut album Hypersonic Missiles and accompanying, intimate EP, the options are slimmer. So too is the production. Fender has the gift of a powerful voice. It just so happens his instrumentals are equally as stunning. Pairing those together makes for a gift of a piece in Will We Talk?. Strip back the joy and bombastic style of the live production, or even the album mix, and here comes a sombre recollection of the love lost and the prison-like fallout of isolation. Incredible in every sense of the word. Instead of this love of the nightlife, the dances and drinking which turn into chance encounters comes intimacy and a cold shoulder to all that.
Simple flickers of change in pitch and tone bring about a whole new meaning for a track set to dominate the early parts of Fender’s live sets for years to come. The Borders still has a delicate treatment too, a few extra bits and pieces on there which give it a life similar to its placement in Hypersonic Missiles. Everything around Fender’s voice is stripped back though, a confident core remains and guides his song through to those echelons of soulful goodness. While fundamentally the same, The Borders here has a momentum which lends itself to gutsy presentation and a simpler momentum. Nicely pieced together and an inevitably well-structured piece which leads nicely into You’re Not the Only One, saxophones and all.
Championing great music is easy when Fender puts out so much, so consistently. Live at Capitol Studios is a neat little deep cut for those just getting on board. What a time to join the steamrolling of charts and stadiums alike. His style has not ebbed and his focus on exceptional guitar work still flows freely as ever. EP closer You’re Not The Only One is sadly absent from live sets and the likes of popular playlists Fender features on, but every artist has a dark horse to rely on, to take out from time to time and showcase the moving motions their music can make. Live at Capitol Studios is enough of a change to his fundamentals to make for three intense and emotionally charged songs.