Live Review: Sampa The Great reigns supreme at St. Paul’s Cathedral for Melbourne Music Week

Saint Paul’s Cathedral has been playing host to some of Melbourne’s most talented artists over the last week. The 126 year old neo-gothic church, located in Melbourne’s CBD, proved to be a striking backdrop for the centre of Melbourne Music Week and promised a music experience like no other. On Friday, the cathedral saw Sampa The Great headline a mammoth line up featuring, Fortunes, The Harpoons, Spike Fuck, Marcus Whale, Anuragg and Wahe.

Playing in a massive Cathedral can be an intimidating feat, but somehow The Harpoons managed to warm up the space and make it feel intimate. Their funky modernised R&B tunes went down soother then a throat lozenge and lead singer Bec Riby’s voice is just…you know those voices that gives you goosebumps? Delicate, but powerful. Songs like “Unforgettable” and “Easy” vibrated off the stone walls, with Riby’s vocals taking full command of the hall. That’s not to say fellow band members Marty King and Henry and Jack Madin didn’t hold their own. Whilst the lyrics reflect themes of heartbreak and loss, the lightness of the instrumentals keep everything buoyant and soulful, making you just want to grab the nearest person and make out. Together they nailed that contradicting sad but uplifting beat, making everything feel sexy.

Continuing the sexiness, next on the bill was Melbourne duo Fortunes. Blending the gritty groove of hip-hop with techy colourful beats, producer Barnaby Matthews and vocalist Conor McCabe fuse together deep bass lines and raw vocals to create a moving collaboration. “Justin Bieber” and “FKWTU” made the already heated space warmer, with everyone pulling themselves out of the church pews and onto their feet. Together they emitted a fun chemistry that had a seductive charm, making it hard to resist getting your groove on. Closing the short but sweet set with crowd pleaser “Energy”, Fortunes continue to prove that they are one of Melbourne’s hottest bands at the moment and it’s exciting to see what lies ahead.

Already being treated to a lengthy night of extraordinary music, I was feeling full and satisfied. Kind of like when you’ve had a giant feast and send yourself into a food coma. Even though I knew the headliner was coming, I was struggling to stay on my feet. But then she arrived. The QUEEN of Melbourne. Throwing out lyrical poems like life vests to a drowning swimmer, Sampa The Great brought me back to life.

Originating from Zambia, the Melbourne-based poet and singer-songwriter is a force to be reckoned with. Not only is she a brooding soulful, hip hop genius who redefines typical rap music, but she is also a powerful commentator, using her words to effect positive change.

Sampa started the set off big, bringing onto collab partner Remi to help sing “Blessings” before launching into “Black Girl Magic”.

“Anything is possible, believe in yourself and reality is what you make it,” she preached to the audience.

The guest appearances continued to follow through, with Sampa introducing Melbourne soul singer Syreney to sing “Casper” and continuously shone the light on her back up vocalist Thunda, who in her on right is an unbelievable artist.

But the most iconic appearance came from the Sunburnt Soul Choir, who joined Sampa for “Bye River”. The harmonies that radiated from the choir (or “family,” as Sampa referred to them) rolled down the church aisles like crushing waves.

It’s hard to believe that Sampa has only been in the business for three years, because she works the audience like a seasoned professional, encouraging everyone to get on their feet and dance. She also stays true to her roots, adding an African flair to most of her songs and welcomed  three African ‘Queens,’ to dance on stage before launching into the prevailing , “FEMALE”,  tearing the church down with womanly empowerment.

Preaching significant messages whilst also producing addictive beats, Sampa was to not only a perfect musical fit for Melbourne Music Week, but also an important one.

The Reviewer attended this event on Friday 24th of November as part of Melbourne Music Week.


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