It’s safe to say that 2022 was an epic year for Sam Ryder. After initially making a name for himself posting covers on TikTok, the Essex-born singer-songwriter shot to superstardom when his track ‘SPACE MAN’ placed second at the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin last May – the UK’s best result for 24 years. Since then he’s performed at the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, had his own New Year’s Eve show on BBC One, been nominated for Best New Artist at the Brit Awards and topped the UK album charts with his debut LP, ‘There’s Nothing But Space, Man!’. Now he’s travelling the country on his sold-out headline tour, including a stop last night at the Eventim Apollo in London.
After a space landing-themed intro, Ryder arrived on stage around 9.15 PM dressed in one of his signature sequin jumpsuits before launching into his second single, ‘Somebody’. The sunny love song with its anthemic chorus was the perfect start to the show, with tons of energy and lifting the already electric feel in the room even higher. Right from the off Ryder encouraged the crowd to sway and sing along – something he continued to do throughout the show – as well as showing off his trademark vocal riffs and guitar playing skills. He could be seen bounding about the stage throughout and tossing his trademark long blond hair, and was rewarded with enormous cheers at the end.
That set the template for the next hour and a half of music, as Ryder kept the audience’s energy up throughout. He frequently encouraged them to “make some noise” and “sing your heads off”, and they happily obliged on tracks like his 90s dance-influenced collaboration with Sigala and David Guetta, ‘Living Without You’ – complete with streamers being launched over the crowd – as well as the rock/electro blend of ‘Put A Light On Me’ and album opener ‘Deep Blue Doubt’, which featured a sparse piano intro before building into a driving chorus. Elsewhere, the impassioned ‘Tiny Riot’ highlighted the soulful side of his vocal, whilst ‘Whirlwind’ – the first song Ryder ever released – provided a dreamy mellow moment that was delivered with plenty of warmth and tenderness.
One thing that really stood out to me throughout the performance was Ryder’s ability to engage with his audience. He frequently broke off to check if everyone was having a good time and express his gratitude to people for coming, and at times looked genuinely overwhelmed by the crowd’s reception as they joined in with every word. It made it really easy to warm to him and showed why he’s quickly become one of the most loved pop stars in the country. I also loved that he had fun with the crowd by cracking jokes, teaching them mini dance routines (particularly on the uplifting ‘Ten Tons’ which he referred to as “absolutely magic”), and using his hands and body movements to keep them singing along and attempting to hold notes – including one moment where he had a mock beard trim on stage whilst delivering an almost operatic vocal run! – whilst putting their phone lights up. He also paused to chat with fan Leon before jumping down into the crowd to take a selfie ahead of ‘This Time’, which showed off the growl and vibrato in his voice and ended with a shimmy and stretch as he drew out the final note.
For me some of the highlights came towards the end of the set with Ryder’s medley of covers. Kicking off with ‘You’ve Got The Love’ (his version of which is currently featuring in a TV advert) which saw him encouraging the crowd to join him on the intro and jamming out with his band, he then moved into his take on Taylor Swift’s ‘We Are Never Getting Back Together’ followed by Paramore’s ‘Misery Business’. The choice of tracks showed he really does have the ability to turn his voice to any musical style and gave him a chance to show off his skill as a guitar player as well.
That said, there was plenty to like in Ryder’s original material too. ‘All The Way Over’ was a particular highlight, showing the softer side of Ryder’s music with its delicate piano melody and heartbreaking vocal delivery, including one fantastic theatrical note at the end that got the second biggest cheer of the night. I’m pretty sure he could walk into any West End show he wanted tomorrow after that! I also loved new song ‘Mountain’, a funky, empowering tune about the power of self-belief which saw Ryder encourage the audience to put “every pair of hands in the sky” to make a mountain shape and ended in an acapella crowd singalong.
After closing his set with the soaring ‘More’, which he dedicated to his granddad who was in the audience, Ryder left the stage to thunderous whoops, cheers and applause before the audience stomped and hollered for more. He happily obliged, returning solo with his guitar for ‘Lost In You’, a beautiful, romantic tribute to his partner Lois, before being joined again by his band for a rocky take on ‘SPACE MAN’ after snapping a photo with the crowd. Obviously it got an enormous crowd reaction, with all 5,000 people in the room on their feet joining in and waving their arms as Ryder showed off his vocal tricks before the glitter cannons were launched again. He also tweaked the lyrics to become ‘I don’t wanna go home’ and I think it was safe to say that no-one wanted to leave after that.
Overall Sam Ryder delivered an incredible evening that was utterly joyous and kept a huge grin on my face throughout. He showed off his talents as a vocalist and guitar player as well as a showman in the vein of classic British rock stars like Freddie Mercury and Elton John, and his enthusiasm for performing was utterly infectious. It’s easy to see how he’s had such a stratospheric rise and he absolutely deserves all of his success. At the end of the show he asked “who’s gonna come again?” to his next show, and I’m pretty certain all of us who were there – and then some – will definitely be back again.
Set list: 1. Somebody 2. Living Without You 3. Put A Light On Me 4. Tiny Riot 5. Ten Tons 6. Deep Blue Doubt 7. All The Way Over 8. Whirlwind 9. Mountain 10. This Time 11. You Got The Love (Candi Staton cover) 12. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (Taylor Swift cover) 13. Misery Business (Paramore cover) 14. More Encore: 15. Lost In You 16. SPACE MAN Performance date: 30th March 2023
Sam Ryder’s latest single, ‘You Got The Love’, is out now on Parlophone Records.
See Sam Ryder on tour live in the UK this spring:
2nd April – Bristol, O2 Academy
4th April – Bournemouth, O2 Academy
4th June – Cheltenham, Wychwood Festival
17th June – Newport, Isle of Wight Festival