I didn’t know what to expect, or rather, didn’t have any expectations. Like many, I was now familiar with his sublimely slick old-school electro-soul smash. Familiar to the extent that I was often caught singing along to “’cause if you’re not really here, then I don’t want to be either. I want to be next to you… (all together now) Black and Gold, Black and Gold.” Instantly addictive, dark as it is shiny with it’s question on what is probably the biggest one of them all. Disco, but deep.
But other than this, I knew nothing of Sam Sparro’s music, and I accepted the possibility that the next hour or so might drag a little. It didn’t. Though I can’t comment on the albums prowress (I will, I promise), as a live act, as music to elevate you to move, to dance, Sparro is an accomplished songbird.
Growing up, Sam sang in church, and this clearly shows in that, like the best of live performers with a similar background, he can belt out with an extensive range and power. Of course, this rule doesn’t always apply. I myself was quite a gifted chorister but pop-success has somehow eluded me. Clearly, it has worked for him. With his father being a recording artist in his own right as well as a gospel minister, at an early age he was singing along with the likes of the Grammy-award winning Howard McCrary, and it was no doubt here the legendry Chaka Khan exclaimed “Damn, that white boy can sing!” Yes, with a three octave range that can take him from baritone to falsetto in an instant, he most definitely can.
From the moment he strutted on to the stage he had me hooked, and from the intensifying roar of the crowd after his opening number of ‘Too Many Questions’, I know I wasn’t alone. Clad in a black ensemble that was pure Gil Gerard’s ‘Buck Rogers’ ready to funk on down with Pamela Hensley, and a pair of over-sized white glasses that were matched by the whole band, three fierce backing girls included, Master Sparro rocked in with ferocious sensual soul. Here was music that was both familiar and new, and I had to dance, happily wearing Ardala’s horny head-piece had it been there. Boy, do I love a good space disco!
Obviously, launching as he is with his first album, there wasn’t a great canon of work to draw from, though as Sparro himself is heavily influenced by an abundance of eighties electro-soul and post-punk funk he easily stamped his mark as no one-hit wonder. He knows how to come up with a a good melody and a killer-chorus, a man equally at home being the producer as he is the exuberant showman, both the brains and the face. It was evident that he loves performing, and as his slight nods to the likes of Prince, Cameo, George Michael and the like pulsated along, he seemed genuinely touched and exhilarated by the ever-increasing warmth of the crowd.
Following the rousing chant and foot-stomping, he returned to the stage for his encore, sealing the deal with one fantastic tribute – with the “right on time” refrain from Loleatta Holloway’s ‘Love Sensation’, more often remembered as Black Box ‘Ride on Time’, and the equally unforgettable ‘Gypsy Woman’ of Crystal Waters with that “LaDaDee LaDeDa” hook. Everyone was to leave on the best of natural highs, having just seen a true showman near the start of his stratospheric climb. There is a smouldering sexuality there that, unlike many who have come before isn’t clouded by ambiguity, and I’m meeting more and more folk who have a little crush, which is a good thing for any rising pop star. And that is exactly what he is, bona fide pop. Loud, bold, glamorous and you know a little bit naughty. Young, undeniably rather fine on the eye and, for all his abundant homage to those whom have come before, still very much his own, Sam Sparro possesses ‘IT’, and I would not be at all surprised if his star remains in continuous ascension for quite some time to come.
Sam Sparro was at the Bloomsbury Ballroom, June 25th 2008