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Event recap: Sampha plays the Sydney Opera House

Do whatever it takes to see Sampha live

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It’s been a while since I’ve written a gig recap. The format’s usually the same though: talk about the mood, drop a few song names, be sure to mention any “moments” you spot in the crowd (an old lady dancing wildly or a guy gacked out of his mind, for example). All that stuff helps to explain the experience to a reader. Usually I’d take notes on my phone throughout, hastily jotting down things like set order, song names, and general feelings. That was my plan for the Sampha show too, but that all went to shit as soon as he stepped on stage. I looked at my phone after—it was blank. There wasn’t a single thing written down.

The whole reason I’m in Sydney is for Sampha. Seeing him perform at the Sydney Opera House as a part of Vivid was an experience I couldn’t pass up. Like most people, I was introduced to Sampha through his work with SBTRKT in 2011 and again in 2013 with Drake. Through these collaborations I always remembered Sampha, the emotion in his voice and storytelling was too pure to forget. Then his debut album ‘Process’ came along earlier this year and I was all-in. The path to the album might have been long and winding for Sampha, but goddamn it was worth it.

Anyone who enjoys, or in my case loves, ‘Process’ should do whatever it takes to see Sampha perform it. Everything he showcases on stage is as considered as the album. The performance of the band is incredibly tight; it’s easy to see that they like the material. The lighting is stunning, and works to perfectly match the mood not only of individual songs but the performance overall. Most importantly though, Sampha is enjoying himself. He’s completely open to the crowd.

When he’s not behind a keyboard or a drum he’s getting around the stage or checking in with the audience. He moves with the flow of a hip-hop artist and makes his way to very edge of the stage. The crowd, who are seated in a theatre made for drama productions, cheer and yearn to break free of the appropriate behavior that keeps them seated. Towards the end some break off and dance in the aisles. I think Sampha would’ve liked that.

As you can tell, I left the Sampha show with a lot of feelings but no notes. Not one word written down. It was quite simply too good. I couldn’t look away, and more importantly, I didn’t want to. I was in it for every second Sampha would have me. He’s not just an amazing vocalist, songwriter, and producer, but also a generous performer. His performances are as rich in emotion as the songs he shares with us. How lucky are we that Sampha is so kind.


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  • Photography by: Prudence Upton
  • Photography by: Daniel Boud

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