There’s a moment of hush before Sam Fender takes to the stage at the BandLab NME Awards 2022 at the O2 Brixton Academy, south London. It’s a moment filled with possibilities. Two years have passed since the last NME Awards: two years in which it’s fair to say a lot shit has gone down. The 2020 shindig was the first boozy rock bash before the thing we don’t talk about, and tonight marks the first boozy rock bash in the new world.
So it’s fitting that the Geordie indie-rock hero opens the night with the pensive, pounding ‘Seventeen Going Under’, a song all about taking stock of the past while resolving to make a decent fist of the future. As he ploughs through the tune, key words from the lyrics flash up behind the 27-year-old: “enraged”, “silence”. Luckily there’s none of that through Fender’s bracing opener: the London audience roars along with his “oh-oh-oh-oh-ohhhhh!”s, a sign of the hometown hero’s limitless appeal.
Later, when his absolutely banging second album, also titled ‘Seventeen Going Under’, is crowned Best Album in the World, he seems genuinely overawed. “We didn’t even know we were nominated until two sentences ago,” he marvels upon accepting the gong. “Loads of Geordie passion in the house tonight,” he adds. “Scream if you wanna go faster!”
And he has some poignant words for fellow indie heroes Fontaines D.C.: “I’m gonna come and neck on with the fuckin’ lot of ya.” The award was introduced by comedian Asim Chaudhry and train-obsessed TikTok sensation Francis Bourgeois (who opened by asking the crowd how they got on during the previous day’s London tube strike, revealing that he evaded any transport issues by travelling via scooter.
Later on in the night meanwhile, Fender and Francis kicked it in the winners’ room, where Francis rocked a handstand as his new mates looked on in awe. So, yes: we’ve waited a very long time for this kind of anarchic nonsense, but – as ever with this gig – the BandLab NME Awards 2022 absolutely deliverted.