Sampa the Great 2023 promotional image

Live Review: Sampa The Great + IDMAN @ Hollywood Theatre, Vancouver – May 19th 2023

As it turns out, dancing the night away to ‘Zamrock’ is a wholly effective way to unwind after an
unexpectedly hot and sticky week in the city. The Vancouver show marked Sampa the Great’s
return to Canada so it felt fitting for Torontonian alt-r&b newcomer IDMAN to kick things off.
Joined on stage by her guitarist for an intimate and heartfelt opening set, IDMAN wowed the
crowd by showing off her captivating vocal range. The singer-songwriter commanded the
attention of those in attendance for the live rendition of her latest single, Hate, a raw and
relatable r&b ear-worm that hit everyone right in the feels.

When the stage curtains were finally hoisted to reveal Sampa the Great’s five-piece band, all
clad head to toe in butterfly-adorned white denim, the audience were ready to move. Bounding
onto the stage, the rapper laid down a selection of new and old tunes – Black Girl Magik, Let Me
Be Great, Healer – flying around the stage like she’d been shot out of a cannon. Her gravelly
delivery of the clever wordplay was effective in firing up the crowd, heads bobbing and hips
shaking to the eclectic blend of hip hop, Afrobeats and neo-soul – dubbed ‘Zamrock’ by Sampa.

“Home” has long been a predominant theme throughout the Zambia-born, Botswana-raised
rapper’s musical canon, and this night was no different. African pride took centre stage; from the
Zambian flag wrapped around her mic stand, to a sweet story about how West African legend,
Angélique Kidjo, had slid into her DMs.

Things were slowed down as Sampa pulled up a pew next to her guitarist and backing singer for
an acoustic performance of “Lo Rain”’ from her new album, As Above, So Below. The audience
shared in Sampa’s pride as they looked on in awe as the band demonstrated their capabilities,
with the lead backing vocalist debuting show-stealing harmonies. Clearly moved by the talent of
the all-Zambian band that she shared the stage with, the rapper – beaming by this point –
addressed her audience – “music is a universal language and it’s brought us all here, across
borders, to share in this one thing that makes us feel alive”.

It didn’t take much encouragement to prompt an encore, as Sampa the Great returned to the
stage to finish her set the night with the appropriately-titled fan favourite, Final Form. Leaving
the Hollywood Theatre all could agree that the night had served as a joyous reminder of the
empowering potency of no-holds-barred soul music.

Thanks to Timbre Concerts for having us out

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