Considering Sampha’s debut album is yet to arrive, he’s already accumulated a pretty solid fan base. After a sold out headline show in his hometown of South London, complete with lengthy queues, Sampha doesn’t need to prove that you can meet the masses with heart wrenching ballads.
I feel like my relationship with Sampha is lowkey personal. First heard via Jesse Ware on their 2011 collaborative single, ‘Valentine’, then on SBTRKT’s debut album, and finally his 2013 second EP ‘Dual’, Sampha has remained consistent, yet in the background of the musical mainstream. Having featured on Solange’s ‘A Seat At The Table’, Kanye West’s ‘Life Of Pablo’, Frank Ocean and that sample on Drake’s ‘Too Much’, Sampha has confidently operated in the background, and now he’s finally ready to take centre stage.
Performing at the 1700 strong Brixton Electric, not far from his own borough of Morden, South London, Sampha was joined on stage by a full band and cellist Kelsey Lu – who also performed earlier as the nights opening act. With the lights tilted down, a blue hue took over the stage, and Electric Brixton came alive with full instrumentation, before he Sampha launched into a performance of ‘Plastic 100°C’ from his up and coming album ‘Process’.
There’s no denying Sampha has a good voice. A very good voice in fact and each of his songs are lined with a personal experience, whether that’s exuding pain or learning, Sampha’s sound is incredibly autobiographical. Lights up, Sampha speaks to the crowd, with a voice so deep and a persona so calm, it’s almost impossible to hear Sampha speak at times, yet what was illegible in words was made up in the music. Slipping into a performance of ‘Tommy’s Prayer’, Sampha flitted between his keyboard, and synth player throughout the night.
The lighting throughout almost mimicked Sampha’s musical moods, starting with a blue hue and moving into purple and yellow as he launched into songs from his 2013 EP ‘Dual’ including the ballads ‘Can’t Get Close’, ‘Too Much’ and ‘Happen’. Sampha’s voice remained strong, powerful and the pain that fuels Sampha’s soundscape remained as pure as it was when it was first released back in 2013.
The crowd, packed closely together, made up of both new Sampha fans (plenty of whispers ‘what’s this one?!’) and day-one fans alike, singing in unison with every song. Most, were lost in a gaze, starring at Sampha on the stage. Dressed in all black, his loc hair standing on edge, intimacy was a prevailing theme throughout the night. Along with his band, pure soundscapes were created, resulting in an almost euphoric energy which bounced off the walls of the Electric.
Lights moving to red along with a solo drum performance, Sampha launched into his latest single ‘Blood On Me’, which new and old fans alike began to bounce along to. Stepping away from the comfort of his mic stand, Sampha moved around the stage, before returning back to his synth player and keyboard for a self-indulgent solo. And then, that was it, Sampha thanked us and his band, then left the stage. Was that all?
He returned for two more tracks. First, performing his introspective ‘No One Knows Me (Like The Piano)’, dedicated to his mother who died of cancer last year. Before closing with ‘Indecision’, which had the crowd singing from left, right, centre and back.
While a Sampha show will never be a night of crowd jumping and water throwing, one thing is sure, that the power of the voice and live instrumentation will always prevail. For now though, all that’s left to do is to wait for Sampha’s ‘Process’, and while we do that, we can still immerse ourselves in his timeless classics.