Samm Henshaw review, Hoxton Hall: Unique formula captivates his London audience – The Independent

It’s been two years since Samm Henshaw released the second half of his Sound Experiment EP series. This might not sound like a long time, but in the notoriously fickle music industry even the briefest hiatus can effectively halt any hard-earned momentum.

Luckily, a long series of previous shows – some of his own, some support slots for James Bay and Chance the Rapper – have prepared him for the challenge of entertaining a sweaty yet excitable crowd in London’s sweltering Hoxton Hall.

A quick scan of the room reveals that plenty of die-hard fans have come to support Henshaw; together they shuffle, clap and sing along faithfully to every word of his older material, most of which allows his soulful voice to soar above minimalist instrumentation. He’s occasionally drowned out by his band (likely more of a technical issue than anything else) but for the most part his vocals succeed in captivating the crowd.

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As he relaxes into the setlist, the highlights begin to come thick and fast in the form of new material. Recent single “How Does It Feel?” sounds fantastic live, and new track “Church” is prefaced by a warning: “I know it’s hot,  but it’s going to get crazy in here so just turn to your neighbour and tell them to give you some space!” His prediction comes true; the upbeat track is buoyed by the chants of a gospel choir, but there’s a clear pop sensibility to the hand-clapping, spirit-lifting song.

The music is stellar, but what truly makes the night feel special is the connection he curates with the crowd. Even in the sweltering heat, he persuades us all to sing along and dance – “If you’re not having fun, I’m not having fun,” he smiles.

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His mum is also in attendance, undoubtedly clapping along as he storms through yet more new material about perfectionism and self-doubt; one song even features an impressive rap breakdown, proving he can do more than just sing. Ultimately, he’s returned from that hiatus with a sound that retains his unique formula but polishes the edges, amplifies the hooks and incorporates a pop sensibility that could likely see his star continue to rise.