Sampha @ O2 Academy, Bristol 28/03/2017

SamphaThe soulful delicacy of Sampha has reached a beautiful pinnacle with his debut album, Process. The honesty of his lyricism paired with his warm vocal has created a timeless album, reflecting a journey of fear, insecurity, and self-discovery. Having earned himself a second headline tour, Bristol’s O2 Academy is graced by his presence tonight.

“Plastic” opens his show, as he adorns the stage with dark blue, moody lighting, his keyboard placed at the front and centre. His vocal drives the performance as the sheer beauty of it resounds around the O2, demanding a calm demeanor from the crowd as he bears all with his truthful lyrics.

There’s a clear impression that he truly opens up through his songwriting and performing, exuding a sense of empowerment when he performs, returning to humble roots when the song’s over with his many “thank you”s to the crowd. It’s this sense of himself as a performer that rings true through his lyrics too, exploring the idea of soul and purpose that's rooted by the notion of home.

But it’s not just his beautiful vocal to be impressed with; the whole production of the performance is done to perfection. The tempo ranges from soft, solitary keyboard to electro-soul and back again, mirroring the turmoil and vicissitudes of Process. For the particularly precious tracks, the band leaves the stage, heightening the sense of intimacy between the crowd and Sampha, as well as the personal sense of grief and emotion.

This is perhaps most true of “(No One Knows Me)”, a deeply raw track that defines Sampha’s journey of finding purpose and dealing with grief. For this closing track, it’s a blackout with only a solitary, delicate light descending from the O2’s ceiling acting as a silencer. In it, he sings about his connection with the piano, as a vessel for communication, for purpose and for maturity, ending his set on a sorrowful, though beautiful, high.

Not one to disappoint, Sampha and his band return for an encore as his keyboard and mic are replaced with a drum kit. Crowded together and with a drum each, they begin a fast and intense drumbeat, introducing “Without” with dynamic energy, much to the delight of the O2 crowd. Exchanging smiles, you can feel the pure joy between Sampha and his band, spreading an infectious feeling of admiration.

Sampha’s performance was both beautiful and bold, bearing all in the purest way possible. And with an array of huge collaborations under his belt, if one thing is for certain: Sampha is going places.


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