Sampha

-ALBERT HALL, MANCHESTER-

When you’re a well blogged about, up and coming artist, it’s very easy to get carried away in a whirlwind of hype, but singer/songwriter Sampha hasn’t let any of this consume him. Forever humble and always focused, the South London based musician delivered an outstanding debut at the start of the year in the form of Process, an album full of wonked out bittersweet soul pop, meticulously crafted and beautifully produced. Since its release back in March, it’s been all about the live show as Sampha and his band have been touring around the whole world to bring this record to life.

I am extremely pleased to be in the ever beautiful surroundings of the Albert Hall this evening as Sampha plays an exclusive headline set as part of the Manchester International Festival (probably the coolest thing the city has to offer when it comes to a celebration of contemporary art in all of its forms).

I arrive just in time to see a brief support slot from upcoming producer and songwriter PAULi. Currently the touring drummer for Sampha, PAULi brings a bucket load of energy and charisma as he dances around the stage, constantly engaging with the crowd and being a pretty perfect warm up. Although the PA needs to be pumped up a bit to deal with some of the sub heavy moments in the set, you can definitely hear the potential in the spaced out soul pop jams that PAULi busts out for us tonight. Last track ‘I Don’t Care’ is a particular banger with a strong drop in the chorus, complete with a catchy hook and swirling synths, that deserves to have triple the amount of plays that is currently does on Soundcloud. Honestly, PAULi has the tunes and the moves to become a big deal. Don’t sleep on him.

Once PAULi’s simplistic laptop and keyboard set up is packed up, a whole bunch of keyboards, synths and sample pads are moved centre stage ready for Sampha and his three piece backing back to come out and give the Albert Hall the set we’ve been dying to hear since Process first dazzled our minds just a few months ago. ‘100┬║c Plastic’ is such a beautiful and bewildering album opener so it makes sense for it to open tonight’s show, Sampha’s voice as passionate and as angelic as it is on record. From then on in, it’s just a brilliantly put together set with some songs perfectly melding into the next while other tracks are extended into even more sprawling compositions, ‘Take Me Inside’ is particularly striking as a synth bass throbs towards a climatic end with Sampha cosmically crooning “maybe this is all a dream”.

Sampha

Process is a fairly intricately textured record but tonight it’s multi-layered compositions translate well in this pretty modestly sized room, the spaced out drop in ‘Reserved Faults’ sounds huge as Sampha balances on the edge of the stage conducting a bouncing crowd while album highlight ‘Kora Sings’ turns into this samba driven carnival as the whole band bang snares, cowbells and tambourines, dancing as if there’s no tomorrow. As expected we are treated to pretty much all of the album, but it’s also great to hear the gorgeous piano driven tones of early single ‘Too Much’, which was originally sampled for a Drake tune. Even cooler, we get a straight up electro take of ‘4422’ which Sampha recently contributed to our Drizzy’s More Life┬áplaylist!

The band leave the stage to rapturous applause after a rousing rendition of recent single ‘Blood On Me’, leaving Sampha to finish up with a lovely altered version of ‘No One Knows Me Like The Piano’. It’s a really nice arrangement of this already heart warming track and although he’s just spent the past 45 minutes bouncing around the stage, Sampha still belts it out, singing every note with closed eye conviction and passion. The whole crowd is in awe.

Honestly, I can take or leave encores but with a show this good, I just want to hear one more track and it seems like the whole room does too as we all scream for one more! It’s probably the most genuine call for an encore I’ve heard in years and the whole seating area stands up in excitement as the band get back on stage for a final tune. They close with previous EP track ‘Without’, which starts off with the whole band crowded behind a rack of percussion. It’s a lovely sight to see them all dancing and smiling away before they all break away to finish the track all guns blazing on their respective instruments. It’s a triumphant end to a triumphant set.

Sampha is a true talent; an amazing composer, musician and vocalist with such a genuine stage presence. And with a solid, tight as you want backing band behind him, tonight was truly stunning experience that totally deserves more hype and in even bigger rooms!

Sampha: Official | Facebook | Twitter

Benjamin Forrester

I joined the Silent Radio family near the very start of my move to Manchester in 2012 and I'm still having the best time! During my stay here I've been in two noisy bands, had a not so noisy solo project, made a zine, started a blog and started a radio show. It's been productive to say the least and it's all been intersperse with a shit load of gig going and beer drinking. I would love it if you followed me on twitter @dr_brainless for excitable tweets about playing, watching and living new music.