It’s Saturday night at the Emirates Stadium. North London is balmy, the sky a mellow blue. Most of the capital is celebrating monarchical longevity but other duties call. One emerges from the players tunnel, tapping the “We are Arsenal” sign an arm’s length up.

Lucky? Who knows but it is tradition.

The stands are awash with humans humming in anticipation of an evening’s entertainment.

But the pitch is packed too. No football tonight, the Killers are headlining.  You know, that band America rejected who are at seven number one albums and counting.

But first comes the undercard. Collins Summer Mix is clutched, a pint of it. Billed as alcoholic, its sugar far outweighs its unit value. The problem is the queues for beer made Claudio Cacapa against Portsmouth look nimble. And the boy is on at 7pm sharp.

Plenty are there for him too. The distinctive retro black and white stripes of Newcastle United pepper the crowd, as do t-shirts sporting a re-designed version of the Newcastle Brown logo.

The band wanders on-stage. Sam Fender follows. Time stops.

Newcastle’s favourite son? Maybe. He certainly endeared himself to United fans with his antics on takeover night, partying outside St James’ Park clad in retro Toon tracksuit.

The next morning a bleary-eyed Fender met his BBC obligations, sporting that same tracksuit. “They gave us a lot of cans, and I’m really hungover…I mean really really hungover. But, erm, these things happen, don’t they?”

Saxophonist Johnny ‘Blue Hat’ Davis burst into a rendition of Local Hero that evening. Back in NE1, Johnny has, as always, a football shirt on tonight.  It is the stuff of dreams.

Fender stares out, surveying all before him. Bodies crammed together, and expectant ones at that. A grin appears. His rise has been, let’s say, hypersonic and his tours are now arena level.

But this is something else. “I’m still shitting meself like,” he notes in that wholesome, home-some Geordie accent. The crowd laughs.

Then comes the music. This review is not written from any musical expertise, whether practical or theoretical. But from a layperson’s perspective, Fenders’ offerings are everything one could want and more. They evoke emotions, both positive and negative. Personal without a hint of oversharing. Relatable, relatable to the extent the mind races. Oh, and they are pretty fucking good.

The opener is ‘Will We Talk?’ – a track which ruminates on one-night stands. The audience is dancing from the get-go. No build up, just bang into it. ‘Getting Started’ follows, again bouncy. But the subject matter is less so. This is personal, from his second album Seventeen Going Under. “I came home and you were on the floor. Floored by the letters and the council rigmarole. What I wouldn’t do to get you out this hole.”  Fender is recalling living with his mother as an 18-year-old, a feeling of getting dragged under perhaps. But also, importantly, he flags his decision to push on. To make something of himself. He has done this.

‘The Borders’ – a pub in North Shields – tells of two childhood friends (“we were like brothers”) torn apart. It was the last single released from Hypersonic Missiles, his debut album. It was the first time Fender dabbled in more acute personal darkness. It is largely the space he has occupied since. More howls of joy come when Fender retrospectively explains that a quick-fire punk number was about queuing in Aldi during lockdown.  What many don’t realise is that he is not piss taking:  ‘Howden Aldi Death Queue’ is based precisely on that.

The song is markedly different from much of Fender’s other work, and does not quite hit the spot in a stadium gig where he is not the main draw. But it is a genuine, old-school B-Side to the single ‘Seventeen Going Under’.   And it definitely hit the spot on his solo tour, offering a few minutes of release to the world’s angst. ‘The Dying Light’ sees Fender take the piano stool apologetically. He also gargles from a cup, suggesting those vocal cords that let him down for a period pre-Covid still need managing.

“But I’m damnеd if I give up tonight. I must repel the dying light,” echoes around the stadium. “For Mam and Dad and all my pals. For all the ones who didn’t make the night.” The sentiment touches a nerve for many. It is a personal favourite of yours truly.

Spit of You’ is a slower tune, exploring that awkwardness many fathers and sons have expressing emotion, expressing love, to each other. Fender has previously called it a “declaration of love” for his old man.

‘Seventeen Going Under’ – the title track from album numero dos – completes the set. It is excruciatingly painful: Fender is recalling his mother, crippled by fibromyalgia and depression, sobbing after the Department of Work and Pensions turned her down. It holds beauty and rawness in equal measures.

Notably he steers clear of Hypersonic Missiles, the record that shot him to prominence. Fender has since hinted that he reflects on that as a broader brush shots-fired dabble into politics, rather than the more personal tones of his second dig. Perhaps one reads too much into its omission.

Maybe Fender simply saves it for his headline gigs (which, by the way, just like his warm-up act are fucking fantastic – somehow he has balanced mainstream popularity with brilliant music). Maybe, one day, St James’ Park will be packed and bouncing to its beat. Now there is a thought.

One could walk out of the Emirates satiated at this point. But then the Killers, well, they’re alright too.

Sam Dalling – @SamJDalling