Live Review: Remi x Sampa The Great "Fire Side" Tour
Remi and Sampa The Great played to a smallish but enthusiastic Capitol crowd for the Perth leg of their “Fire Sign” national tour on Friday night. The event featured special guests Pow Negro and Koi Child (DJ’s) in support, as well as individual sets from Sampa and Remi, culminating in a joint set to finish the show. The running theme of their ten-show tour is celebration; a celebration of community and music. Both artists touched on this throughout their sets, in between songs that conveyed powerful messages of social justice and mental health. I only wish that the bass frequencies in the mix weren’t so incredibly overbearing, so that I could actually hear the lyrical content of these messages.
Throughout Friday I was checking the official Facebook event page for set times, keen to have some idea of how the night would pan out. There was a distinct lack of communication regarding set times from the artists, the management or the venue. However, the start time for the event was set at 8pm, so I thought I’d grab some dinner in the city and head into Capital at around 8.30, early enough to catch the first support: Koi Child (DJ’s). Surprise! I walked in just as Sampa the Great, one of the main acts, was starting. It turns out I’d completely missed both support slots, as had the majority of ticket holders. At 8.30 people were only just beginning to roll in. There were a few disappointed punters posting on the event page the day after the gig, disgruntled at the fact they rocked up at what would normally have been an early time for a gig billed to finish at midnight. Some were lamenting that they had completely missed Sampa’s set, which started only half an hour after the posted start time of the whole night. A bit of communication from organizers would have been much appreciated to fans who had paid $40 to attend.
So, Sampa the Great walked out on stage to a very small but appreciative crowd, who came forward to fill the awkward space at the front of the stage. It was a strange vibe for the first few tunes as people weren’t warmed up at all, and Sampa’s appearance seemed to catch everyone by surprise. But Sampa the Great packs a whole lot of swagger and charisma into her small frame, and her ability to bring a crowd together and make everyone feel at ease meant there were big smiles and plenty of dance moves before too long. I’ve seen Sampa the Great a few times, and she’s always wearing either a glorious coat or a totally captivating cape. Friday night was no exception; her slick rhymes and wicked flow only accentuated by her eccentric flowing gold coat. Sampa’s beats are more than just bass and drums, possessing intricate melodies and harmonies that make them great pieces of music in their own right, then finished off by Sampa’s powerfully delivered messages over the top. Unfortunately, nothing much of anything except vision blurring bass was coming through the system. Sampa, who originally hails from Zambia, is all energy and fun on stage though, and it was a great set, complete with an African inspired dance off featuring random audience members.
Remi hit the stage very soon after Sampa, helped by the fact that the instrumentation stayed the same between the two main acts. I’d hazard a guess that there were still ticket holders who hadn’t arrived yet. But the crowd was definitely growing and everyone was ready to be entertained as Remi arrived sporting a sick afro complete with afro comb. There was plenty of bouncing and hands in the air for Remi who wove through bangers that everyone sang along to, and mellower songs that presented deeper messages. The sense of community that is central to the tour’s theme was definitely present. The mixed crowd were bonded together by the love of good music. Based in Melbourne, Remi’s take on Australian hip hop is a refreshing departure from the Hilltop Hoods type mold. It’s less of a mainstream sound, which probably frees him up to discuss important themes within his music, and makes his songs a vehicle for commentary on issues significant to him and his audience. Unfortunately, his set was again largely spoilt by ridiculous levels of bass, destroying any finesse in his vocals or beats.
Remi and Sampa the Great joined forces for the last set of the night, which happened at the surprisingly early time of 10.20pm, and was pretty short. They had an amazing energy together on stage, and their genuine and down to earth nature shone through in a tight and powerful, albeit quick performance.
I thought it was a pretty low turnout overall, which is surprising given the quality of music and performance on display. Both Remi and Sampa the Great are shining lights of the Australian hip hop scene, their music and messages appealing to Australian listeners, as well as possessing that ability to be easily consumed by international audiences too. It would have been great to have seen them play a smaller venue that would have been packed tighter and probably done the music justice in terms of overall sound quality. The vibe was good on Friday night, but with better communication regarding set times, and a smaller venue with better sound, I think Remi and Sampa the Great who are extremely talented musicians could have achieved more from their performance.