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The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Emerson College’s only independent, student-run newspaper since 1947

The Berkeley Beacon

Sampha’s ‘Lahai’ tour transcends Roadrunner

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Nick Peace

British alternative R&B singer-producer-instrumentalist Sampha graced Boston with his presence on April 2 at Roadrunner Boston and serenaded the crowd with a selection of songs from his albums “Process” and “Lahai.”

Six years after releasing his critically acclaimed debut album “Process,” Sampha gave us a thematic and tonal shift with the release of  “Lahai.” “Process” explores themes of loss, whereas “Lahai” brings the listener through a journey of healing, optimism, and human connection influenced by fatherhood.

Sitting centerstage at his keyboard, surrounded by his band with a plethora of percussive instruments, Sampha’s stage presence was nothing short of exciting. During and between songs, he would get up and start dancing.

A key difference between Sampha’s performances on the “Lahai” tour and when he performed around the release of his debut album “Process” is that he is accompanied by a full-piece band rather than performing solo. While live performances on the tour from that time included other musicians, the “Lahai” tour features a four-person band, making Sampha’s songs more brimful with sound than ever before. 

“Lahai” is experimental and piano-heavy. This made for a unique concert experience—because Sampha accompanied his band, the ensemble could bring their experimentation to life on the stage. The concert intertwined both albums. The songs from “Process” were reimagined with different instrumentals, a quicker pace, or new verses.

Sampha’s performance at Roadrunner

The band consists of Blake Cascoe (drums), Ruthven (percussion), Rosetta (bass), and Elsas (keys/percussion). While this collective was required to replicate the complex and diverse sounds of “Lahai” it also made Sampha’s older tracks reach a whole new musical and emotional depth.     

Sampha’s performance created a unique atmosphere. Even though Roadrunner is a standing-room-only venue, there was minimal dancing. Fans just stood there, took it all in, and admired Sampha’s mesmerizing vocals. This isn’t to say that the crowd wasn’t reactive, however. The crowd cheered and clapped after each song, showing they were hungry for more.

Arguably, the most electric and our favorite performance of the night was “Blood On Me,” which was also featured on “Process.” Despite its heavy subject matter, which delves into anxiety caused by guilt, Sampha’s latest onstage rendition of the track was energetic, synth-heavy, and fast-paced—somewhat incomparable to the original. “Blood On Me” was accompanied by flashing strobe lights and aggressive instrumentals, which brought liveliness to the crowd.

Of course, the vibe shifted from song to song. Other performances like “Too Much” leading into “(No One Knows Me) Like the Piano,” were much slower and melancholic, allowing the listener to reflect on Sampha’s stream-of-consciousness lyrics.

Aside from his solo endeavors, Sampha is widely known for his collaborations with hip-hop artists. Towards the show’s end, he gave us some predictable fanservice by mashing up his features from Kendrick Lamar’s “Father Time” and Kanye West’s “Saint Pablo.”

This mashup was enhanced by the band’s creative playing as a group, making the famous features turn into entirely new renditions of the songs they originate from. 

Despite Sampha playing his career highs back-to-back, the crowd at Roadrunner had a lackluster reaction to the creative spin on some of the most celebrated features in hip-hop. 

This could be due to Sampha’s fanbase being split between fans of his widely popular features puzzled by the instrumental-heavy versions of the songs they came to see. In contrast, the fans of Sampha’s in-depth instrumental direction of “Lahai” stayed quiet to soak in this new approach to classic tracks. 

Regardless of which side Roadrunner’s crowd fell into, the approach to these songs was a beautiful blend of Sampha’s angelic vocal performance, echoing his most memorable lyrics, and his band’s intricate and seamless playing. 

Sampha’s set brought an imaginative and unique take on his albums and features. His performance perfectly encapsulated his experimental style and evolution as a musician.

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About the Contributors
Rumsha Siddiqui
Rumsha Siddiqui, Managing Editor
Rumsha Siddiqui (she/her) is a journalism major from upstate New York. She currently serves as a managing editor for the opinion and living/arts sections and previously served as sports editor. Rumsha is passionate about writing about the Boston Celtics and offering commentary and criticism on film, television, and music.
Sam Shipman
Sam Shipman, Assistant News Editor
Sam Shipman (He/Him) is a freshman journalism major from Natick, Massachusetts. He currently is a Staff Writer for the Berkeley Beacon. When he's not reporting he can be found listening to music or spending time with friends.

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