Relatively unheard of unless you’re heavy into electronica and knowledgable around producers. He’s been in the music business for a long time, providing vocals for plenty of SBTRKT songs and producing for such artists as FKA Twigs, Drake and Solange. Finally in February 2017, ‘Process‘ is released, and we get to hear the artist on his own terms. It’s a fantastic record start to finish, shifting through electronic beats and synthesizers to classical piano and falsetto vocal. The guy is super talented, and Australia were lucky enough to be treated early to a national tour on the back of his debut album.
The Drama Theatre seats 544 patrons right in the heart of the Sydney Opera House. It’s a great little venue that, as the name suggests, normally holds stage actors and singers as opposed to electronic artists. Sampha has been invited down to be a part of Vivid Live, performing two shows which sell out in a flash. Despite the outcry, the shows are not upgraded, and lucky fans such as myself get to witness what will hopefully be an incredible night in an intimate venue. No one is sure what to expect, being his first Australia tour, but the anticipation is high. As the smoke machine fills the room, the lights dim and crowd let out an “Oooooh” before erupting in applause. Enter Sampha.
The first thing I notice is how the silhouette of the British artist reminds me of Hey Arnold! Wild, frizzy, thick black hair sits on top of a mountain of a man. He lumbers across the stage as his band members set the scene for opening track ‘Plastic 100C’. From the get-go I know this will be a memorable night, and I can’t take my eyes off what is happening on the stage. There are 4 members in total, each sat in front of an array of electronic music instruments in the form of keyboards, synthesizers, trigger pads, drums and other whatnots. Each band member has a specific role tonight and they all play it to a tee. It’s meticulously rehearsed without sounding robotic.
Personal favourite ‘Timmy’s Prayer’ soon follows and it just keeps getting better. The standout without any doubt is the vocal performance of Sampha. That intense and warm mixed voice is so powerful tonight, even more commanding than on any of his releases. It’s astounding how charming and encapsulating his voice is – no wonder he has skyrocketed to fame. There is rarely a bum note throughout the entire set, and the crowd hangs on every note.
Speaking of – the crowd. The love, the gratitude and the sincerity of which everyone welcomed and applauded every song with was palpable. You could just tell how excited everyone was to be finally seeing their hero. The next time Sampha returns you can be sure it won’t be in a small theatre like this one.
Sampha races through his small catalogue, opting for the majority of album tracks with a couple of fan favourite b-sides. It’s somewhat predictable but for a guy with only one album, you can’t expect him to fill the setlist with covers. Having said that, a re-worked SBTRKT song would have been a nice surprise, considering that the majority of his songs have been given a work over for a little more band orientated live performance.
Highlights of the night were the well-known ‘Blood On Me’, the classy ‘Too Much’ and show closer ‘Without’, starting with a 4-man drum circle. I can’t fault anything about the show, it was a great introduction to someone who will be around for a very long time.
Sampha @ The Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House. Saturday May 27th, 2017.
- Plastic 100C
- Timmy’s Prayer
- Too Much
- Take Me Inside
- Reverse Faults
- Incomplete Kisses
- Kora Sings
- Blood On Me
- No One Knows Me (Like The Piano)