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High Notes: Sampha

Written by Eric Diep • Photography by Lucas Alvarado-Farrar / Far Fetched, Live Nation • February 10, 2017

“How are you so good?”

“I love you!”

Sampha, the 27-year-old South London born songwriter is new to such high praise. These fans, who braved the aftermath of Winter Storm Niko to come to NYC’s Terminal 5, know just how in-demand a Sampha ticket is these days. Last October, Sampha sold out Baby’s All Right in Brooklyn so quickly that a second night was added at Music Hall of Williamsburg. This isn’t what hype looks like; this is what good music sounds like. Just how good you ask? Get the high notes.

Terminal 5 is a three-story venue, and each of its balcony views were filled with people standing shoulder-to-shoulder as they anticipated Sampha’s arrival. On the first floor, a cool breeze wafted through the air, but regardless of the amount of down jackets and trench coats worn to stay cozy, Sampha was here to warm us up all over. Opening with “Plastic 100ºC,” the transformative ballad is a solid showcase of why everyone's so obsessed with his soft, soulful and commanding voice.

Sampha was backed by his band, making the live experience much fuller compared to his stripped down solo performance of “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Since Sampha’s production ventures into electronica too, you can often get lost in a trance to his grooves on songs like “Reverse Faults” and “Incomplete Kisses.” Sometimes, he’ll leave his keyboard post to drum or emcee, singing fervently as fans cheer him on.

“How are you guys doing out there?” he asked, before building up into album highlight “Kora Sings.” Sure, most of Sampha’s set is full of chill vibes to be watched and enjoyed, but he’s got a few songs that’ll get you bouncing on the balls of your feet. You can check the soundtrack below:

As expected, he saved “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano” for last. "Get beautiful on them real quick!" a man yelled as he played the song’s opening keys. He didn’t stop there. Instead, the singer/songwriter cranked out two more killer performances. “Without,” which featured his entire band, huddled around him, drumming on a stand-up drum kit, and “Indecision,” a song about letting go of your worries and problems in life.

Sampha seems eternally grateful for the show of support for his career all these years. Whether you’re just getting hip to Sampha or have been a fan since his work with SBTRKT, he’s appreciative that people are digging his music. Concluding the evening with a wave and goodbye, he spoke candidly to his fans. “Thank you so much for showing me so much love.”


Thanks for braving the snow, New York! ❄️ Next stop Montreal. 📸: @jromerophoto

A photo posted by Sampha (@samphaaa) on

Stray observations:

  • Overheard: “It's so weird because he has such a unique voice.” The odder the music, the more talented they are?
  • Stage lighting was everything: From orange and purple to dark blue and teal, each color complemented his songs. You can easily run through every emotion and be content.
  • The Drake effect: “Too Much” got one of the loudest sing-alongs of the evening. But don’t sleep on his solo version; it’s just as fantastic.

What’s the ONE thing people need to know about Sampha’s live show? Come for the vibes and a good cry.