Sampha strolled out on stage Saturday Night at the Swedish American Hall, following a moving and instrumental set by cellist and singer, Kelsey Lu. His hair was piled up atop his head in an intricate pattern. His round, open face wore a shy expression and an unabashed eagerness that was incredibly difficult to hide.
Easily, the U.K. producer greeted the San Francisco crowd, clad in various costumes to celebrate the one weekend of the year where they could be someone else for a night. The artist, who’s just recently begun gaining insane traction, proved his ability to collaborate with a versatile spectrum of artists, as the soft, intimate instrumentalist Kelsey Lu perched beside him on stage. The two swam in a sea of a dim blue ambiance, as their faces were illuminated by a red spotlight.
Intimately pushing away at the piano, Sampha sung emotionally to accompany his melodies. Often, the singer and producer took liberties with his rhythm, indulging in a fair amount of rubato as he extended tempo on the ends of his phrases. When the artist played his popular single “Too Much”, practically the entire audience could be heard singing along. Everyone, costumed or otherwise, danced and swayed alongside one another in the tiny venue, shoulders brushing each other and smiles permeating the room.
The artist, whose most recent work has appeared on Solange’s “Don’t Touch My Hair” and Kanye West’s “Saint Pablo”, has developed quite a reputation for his ability to effortlessly create a soundscape in which listeners — and concert attendees alike — feel immersed in his honest, gorgeously moving work.
Throughout his set, Sampha made sure to provide the same amount of genuine authenticity in his work. On audience favorites, he made sure to lead into the song with adequate build up, letting a repeating synth and the light, shaking drums fill the room for a long moment before layer his vocals above the background.
“How you guys feelin’? Good?” He asked in a brief moment of speech.
“Thanks to you!” an audience member cried out. Sampha let a brilliant smile break across his face.
“Thanks to you,” he insisted, to the pleased yells of the audience’s approval.
Playing some of his collaboration tracks with SBTRKT, such as “Something Goes Right”, he got even the calmest audience members dancing by the end of the night. Near the end of his set, Sampha managed to get the attendees — whom he deemed a “beautiful crowd” — hyped for this track “Blood On Me”, before closing with audience favorite “Without”.
Sampha returned for a brief encore at a live grand piano to play “Indecision” before taking off as ephemerally as he came, in the magic of the festive Halloween night.
Written by Eda Yu