Sampha live in London: a solo return worth waiting for

Sampha brings his LAHAI show to London

Sampha takes to the stage at Hackney Church to a ripple of applause, joining his bandmates in the centre of the space for an immersive performance in the round.

The enigmatic south London artist dives straight into ‘Plastic 100°C’, the introductory track from his 2017 Mercury Prize winning album, Process. For a singer songwriter who has thrived on stripped back, piano led harmonies and an understated yet emotionally powerful voice, this new found approach feels a lot different.

This set of gigs have been named ‘Satellite Business’ by Sampha, who’s new album Lahai is set to drop later this week after a six year hiatus from solo projects. There is certainly a new energy about him as he moves across the stage during his rendition of ‘Hold On’, matched by relentless drumming from his band members.

Guiding us through his discography, we then hear ‘Beneath The Tree’ from his debut solo project, 2013’s Dual EP. This 6 track project was released a decade ago but the influences and impact it has had across music cannot be underestimated. Sampha’s sound is so unique and personal, any feature or guest appearance on a track since has elevated it to a new standard. This kind of deep, personal connection to the music is only enhanced by the performance in the round, allowing the audience to appreciate the music from all angles and leaving nowhere to hide.

Sampha then blends in some of his new work with a selection of fan favourites from his back catalogue. The fresh approach on Lahai shines through, with fewer tracks steeped in wistfulness and melancholy, moving more towards a universal, spiritual sound that feels more expansive than his previous works. There is more of a playfulness about him than expected, melding together one of his standout tracks, ‘Without’, with a cover of the Garage classic ‘Gabriel’ by Roy Davis Jr.

We also hear another cover later on in the setlist, this time delving into Massive Attack’s macabre hit ‘Teardrop’. The range of emotions on display through the music is engrossing and captivating, travelling through states of vulnerability and sombreness to moments of joy and anticipation.

The artist is then joined on stage by UK Rap icon Stormzy, adding another element to the performance and surprising the audience as he emerged from the crowd. Sampha’s collaborations within the Rap sphere have seen him influence the genre at the highest end, from Drake’s ‘Too Much’ to the more recent ‘Father Time’ with Kendrick Lamar. His ability to touch different areas of music whilst staying true to his own inimitable sound is demonstrative of the respect he commands as an artist.

The show then closes with a soulful performance of ‘Can’t Get Close’ with Sampha being joined by a host of singers in a circle, before an atmospheric rendition of ‘Blood On Me’ to bring the curtain down on an unforgettable night. Sampha is showing a different, more versatile side in his new music, while his previous hits still hold up, especially given the attention to detail he has put into his live show.

Sampha by Jesse Crankson

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