Attentiveness Is A Must: Sampha at Franklin Music Hall - WXPN | Vinyl At Heart

If there is one thing that can be said about the English singer, songwriter, and musician Sampha, it’s that he is a patient and intentional soul. It’s been more than six years between his debut release, Porccess, and his most recent album Lahaiwhich came out earlier this year. This sophomore album is an ambient dreamscape of healing music that easily soothes the soul. On Monday, Sampha made an appearance at Franklin Music Hall in North Chinatown to perform tracks from both studio albums. It’s safe to say that Sampha’s Philadelphia stop on the Lahai tour was a spiritual experience for all those in attendance.

Sampha kicked off the night with a six-piece band with multiple percussionists led by him behind a shiny silver keyboard. He opened with “Plastic 100°C,” a hazy introspective track with layered background vocals that were from Sampha’s debut album. The musical virtuoso went on to perform mostly newer tracks like “Spirit 2.0.” Although the venue was rather large, the dark and moody lighting — with a triangular halo flanking the singer — evoked sensations of intimacy and stillness from the crowd.

Sampha | photo by Melissa Simpson for WXPN

For much of the night, Sampha remained behind his keyboard towards the back center of the stage. There were instances where he would step from behind the keys and whirl, twirl, and bound across the stage, but for the majority of the evening, he was stationary. This stillness seemed to, in a way, command attention from the audience in a way that wouldn’t have been possible if he was a more physically expressive performer – a certain tranquility or calmness was required from the audience to get the full Sampha experience. Attentiveness was a must.

Despite the serenity of his set, Sampha still found ways to play with the spatial constraints of his musical stylings and performance style. There was one point in the night where Sampha and all of his band members huddled in the a corner of the stage, and under the haze of a stark white spotlight, had an acoustic percussion song break that shifted the evening into the portion of the show with more high energy songs.

Sampha ended off the night with performances of “Too Much” and “Happens” but skipped over the fan favorite “Indecision.” Although Sampha makes soft, understated and experimental R&B, his angelic voice and truly dynamic voice is all that’s needed to captivate a packed-out house. 

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