Having arrived at Northside early and watching the running of the Northsiders aka the opening of the gates Samm Henshaw was given the task of warming everyone up with the opening concert at the P6Beat stage.
I admittedly knew not much of the UK singer beforehand – except for what Northside themselves described as a combination of D’Angelo, Leon Bridges and Miguel and a few Spotify listens. He has apparently been called a superior soul-singer to Sam Smith – which for a soul connoisseur as myself doesn’t actually mean that much.
On stage at Northside, however, not much of that description rang true. Wearing an American biker tee and accompanied by his five-man church-band The Sound Experiment the style was more northern soul and blues-rock than the soul-pop on the master tracks. More Gary Clark Jr. than D’Angelo (a comparison that makes no sense for me btw), more Aloe Blacc than Miguel and more John Legend than Leon Bridges.
It’s obvious that Samm Henshaw is a talented musician and artist. He switches between playing guitar, playing keys or just singing quite fluently. And the band is equally good, complimenting the tracks way better than the actual production on the recorded tracks.
When the concert started the audience was nowhere to be found, but slowly a wandering started and the P6Beat stage was quite packed at the end of the concert. It was evident that the singles caught the audiences attention the most – the best part of the concert, however, was when Samm Henshaw reverted more to his gospel roots and poured his heart out.
The tone switched from being danceable to more rocking to more soulful. Maybe that’s the consequence of appealing to a pop-audience while still keeping some of one’s influences intact. It did though end up lacking a bit in unification throughout the show. And a sing-a-long passage with the seemingly random The Temptations’ “My Girl” and Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” that just seemed unnecessary – especially considering how the audience reacted to the call-and-response on “Better”!
It’s always interesting seeing a new artist who only have a few tracks and whether or not they can do a whole 45 min. show. Having only released six tracks, one of which is an intro, that was a concern from my side coming in – a concern that was laid to rest. Samm Henshaw proved that he is a very good singer – even with the microphone being way too low during the entire show. The band proved a symbiotic accompaniment and improvement over the studio tracks. Both delivered a tight show musically, that did lack a bit in context. I’m looking forward to hopefully seeing Samm Henshaw in a couple of years when he has found himself more as an artist.
It's not an easy job opening NorthSide alongside Alex Vargas, but Samm Henshaw did a decent job, nonetheless. Doing the gospel thing seems like the right path! (4/6)