Sampha – Powerstation: February 23, 2024 (Concert Review)

Sampha performed at Auckland’s Powerstation last night and the 13th Floor’s Oxford Lamoureaux and Chris Zwaagdyk were on the scene. Here are Oxford’s words and Chris’ pictures.

Being one to never shy away from all that is good and bright in this world, I thought I’d take some recommendations on the gigs I should review, and a resounding choir told me I had to see Sampha, a British music producer visiting New Zealand for two intimate gigs and a set at Splore.

And not to discount his impressive creative biography – with collaborators that include Kendrick Lamar, Frank Ocean, Kanye West, and Solange –  but it was also an opportunity to revisit The Powerstation, which I unfortunately have been away from far too long since The Darkness pulled out earlier this year and left me yearning for some of that small-venue viscous crowd heat and energy ever since.


Doors opened at 8, inviting a smattering of early fans with acoustic funk-soul jazz played Ruthvenover the politely dispersed crowd, which felt strange until I remembered it was still light with late summer sun outside and the feral joy of The Powerstation in the daylight is an acquired taste. The first keyboard notes of the opening act chopped through the lull of quiet and began layering beautifully harmonic vocals with increasingly complex ethereal loops, and was surprised to see it was just one guy on stage at a keyboard looking like a young, slightly lost facsimile of The Weeknd.

But over the next 30ish minutes, Ruthven, hailing from London and showing every bit of influence absorbed from the somber greys of the ground to the skies, performed just one earnestly beautiful – dare I throw in a hauntingly here – song after the next; simple loops, gorgeous, deep keyboard, and an ambitious voice that elevated all of it. I did keep mentally revisiting The Weeknd doppleganger thought, but more suited to rainy winters and filled with yearning and a tainted optimism to the harmonies.

Now moved by the performance and in need of a palate cleanser, I went back downstairs to see if the crowd attendance had improved – it had – and then outside to soak in some of that glorious post-sundown degenerate energy from the smoking section to relive my early 20s nostalgia of getting trashed before a gig has even really begun.


This isn’t to digress from the experience either, but really to elevate it; reminding me that Samphait’s why I love gigs and reviewing music and this venue, because it prevents me from getting too comfortable when there’s so much to enjoy reliving and so much still to discover. Nostalgia was quickly suffocated beneath that infamous packed-gig muggy musk of the crowd when I returned, and shortly after Sampha took to the stage with a handful of musicians in an intentionally chaotic layout.

After opening with the distorted samples and marching band rhythm of drums in Plastic 100°C, Sampha introduced the group and gave the standard ‘It’s good to be back after all these years’ speech to the crowd, before the warped and wobbling samples of Satellite Business stretched over its sharp keyboard stabs. Suspended brought a growling, rumbling bass into the mix, with all three songs featuring the same signature delivery of fast-spoken half-sung R&B vocals, layered with some exceptional supporting vocals in contrasting harmony.

Then we were all treated to the joy that comes with a small crowd and early-set engagement, where any pause between songs longer than five seconds is filled with spin-the-wheel-like selection of heckles from Auckland’s finest amateur comedians. I guess you could argue adds to the charm, and I’ll never underestimate a crowd’s ability to get vocally excited about the introduction of a chill drum beat fill during a quiet piano song, as they did in Inclination Compass (Tenderness), another song that held that consistency of foundational notes washed away under ethereal loops.

The following number – Without – saw the musicians huddled – NYC music-school witch style – around the drums on stage like it was a musical cauldron, building percussion in an almost Soulwax-remix sound, jumping back later into more galactic warp wobbles and trap-beat drums in Spirit 2.0 that bordered on becoming Carpenter Brut or a Fred Again set as some sax began to drift in from the back of the stage.


Too Much and (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano brought back some more vibes of The Weeknd, heavy, haunting (gasp) pianos to match the equally resonant vocals, short and sweet until I was suddenly distracted by someone wearing a pair of white semi-platformed dress Crocs in front of me, before the amazing upbeat funk sound of Dancing Circles yanked me back into the set with its incredible jarring keys and slightly washed-out vocals.

SamphaClosing out with Blood on Me which, despite the setlist being somewhat disconnected individually, felt like the conceptual crescendo of the show as a whole, the crowd was treated to a longer, more ambitious and complex mixture of loops and drums, veering close to Rock and with that same peak of aural intensity drawn out in Arcade Fire’s Reflektor.

And although I do occasionally still cringe when there’s clearly fifteen minutes of a gig left and chants of ‘one more song’ and ‘encore’ begin filling the darkened room like a sleepover at a school cafeteria, it wasn’t until I walked downstairs to listen to the final solo keyboard number of the night, Happens, and a random guy just suddenly slumped down against the wall and began playing Mario Kart on his Switch on the floor, that the feeling of the evening crystalised.

Life is complex, and messy. It’s loud and it doesn’t follow a set rhythm. It can be filled with jarring contrasts, nostalgia, and hope, and connection with community if we look to find it and embrace it. And while I could pick apart smaller aspects of the gig, the lack of crowd control, the rare imbalanced audio engineering, or the regularly aimless, drifting sense of structure in some of the songs’ final parts, Sampha was a uniquely beautiful and memorable experience, watching a group of talented musicians find passion and joy in creating that together, for themselves and for the audience – and proving that embracing that experience truly is all that is good and bright in this world.

Oxford Lamoureaux

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Chris Zwaagdyk:



Sampha Setlist
  1. Plastic 100°C
  2. Satellite Business
  3. Suspended
  4. Inclination Compass (Tenderness)
  5. Without
  6. Stereo Colour Cloud (Shaman’s Dream)
  7. Spirit 2.0
  8. Too Much
  9. (No One Knows Me) Like the Piano
  10. Dancing Circles
  11. Can’t Go Back
  12. Can’t Get Close
  13. Blood on Me


  1. Happens