Sampha impresses, continuing his legacy into future stardom following a delightful performance at Camden’s Roundhouse.
The soulful individual is by no means hidden in the shadows of the music industry, his heart-wrenching vocals have blessed many a listener’s ears – despite the lack of familiarity with his name. From his 2011 extended play Break Off, in collaboration with producer SBTRKT, to his 2013 EP – Dual, Sampha was laying all the foundations required to make a name for himself. Impassioned melodies and an exhibition of innovative, modern instrumentalism throughout his work sets him apart from others in his genre.
The breakthrough came in 2014, which saw the release of Drake’s 3rd studio album, in which Sampha provided the vocals for two singles (including Too Much, which was sampled from Sampha’s previous single release under the same name) – both of which featured in the UK Top 100. Next to employ the South London-born vocalist was self-acclaimed ‘rock star’ Kanye West, on his ‘living and breathing’ album The Life Of Pablo. Rapidly followed by Frank Ocean’s visual album Endless and once again Drake, as a standalone single entitled 4422 on his 2017 release; More Life.
Following a 6-year succession of increasingly popular EP’s, Sampha exhibited his first studio released album Process; an album I would highly recommend – at only 10 songs long, you can drift away in his captivating vocals without losing interest. Inevitably, the album release was swiftly followed by the announcement of a brief trio of UK shows; Birmingham, Bristol and London – before proceeding to a much larger sweeping of the States (possibly due to a larger outreach). Nevertheless, due to the rapid depletion of tickets for the initial London show, Sampha added another date to satisfy the overwhelming demand.
What I found most intriguing about the nature of this performance was Sampha’s stage presence. The visuals consisted of an illuminated back screen upon which himself and his band were silhouetted – for any neutral, you would assume this was a four-piece band, not an individual artist. Arguably, he was presenting what made him famous – his voice and his voice only. As the night progressed and the crowd became increasingly engaged, the 28-year-old grew in confidence and so did the atmosphere – an impressive attribute when a large portion of his discography is a kick-back listen rather than a jump around vibe. Unfortunately, there were select parties who thought it as a social rather than a gig throughout the more mellowed singles – both rude and extremely distracting when, as a fan, you are trying to zone into the music.
The humble demonstrations of Sampha throughout the night were truly special, I find that it is very rare to gauge a genuine sense of admiration shown by an artist in response to the praise they receive from their audience however, tonight, the admiration was apparent. Much of the setlist was adapted to showcase his raw talents – this is a man who is devoted to his music, and once he is in the moment there is little that can stop him. I can count very few times in which I have attended a gig and the vocals have matched that of what you hear through your headphones. I could only stand back and enjoy the spectacle that was on offer, and it was clear to see that everyone else felt the same – the lack of phones held up in the air, blocking your view, reinstated this (except the bloke in front of me who decided to Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Snapchat, photograph and record the whole night…).
The night concluded with an encore, an adaption of Without from 2013’s Dual. Sampha and his accompanying band gathered round a 4-piece drum kit and began to jam to beat that became so intensely heated, half way through the end of one of their sticks flew into the air, missing Sampha by inches – they continued and they progressively returned to their instrument and transitioned in the full song. The act was followed by a thunderous applause, the room lit up and Sampha admired on-looking crowd, once again thanking them for their dedicated support. A thrilling end to an enjoyable evening.
If you find pleasure in good music, you will revel in what Sampha has to offer. His organic and unprocessed soul yields a pleasant listen, whether that be live or recorded. I can only hope he continues what he is doing and I very much look forward to seeing him again.