Sampha

5 July
Albert Hall

Although a part of Manchester’s outward-looking International Festival, both of tonight’s performers, PAULi and Sampha, are British talents. Hailing from London, the artists’ previous work includes collaborations with acts such as Jamie xx and FKA Twigs.

First on stage, PAULi’s vulnerable yet short set oozes creative energy and leaves the crowd hungry for more.

As part of a one-off show for the festival, the opportunity to see Sampha was surely quickly seized by many. His highly anticipated debut album, Process, which has recently been named on this year’s Merucry Prize shortlist, was finally released early this year, but his condensed tour didn’t include any Manchester dates.

After recent collaborations with the likes of Beyonce, Solange, Drake and Kanye West, Sampha has been gaining worldwide attention and praise. His recent performance at Glastonbury was among the most talked about of the festival, largely for his spellbinding cover of Solange’s ‘Cranes in the sky’.

Tonight, Sampha yet again proved his worth as his soulful electronic tones filled the bespoke Albert Hall venue. As he ran through Process in full, the most poignant moments came on the songs ‘Plastic 100°C’ and ‘Kora sings’, the latter really demonstrating his range as an artist, as his incorporation of percussion instruments introduced a funkier side to his sound.

A solo version of ‘(No One Knows Me) Like The Piano’ was undoubtedly a highlight of the set. As the encore followed, the whole band gathered around one drum kit for a dramatic climax to the show, perfectly epitomising Sampha’s enigmatic sound.

Beth Madden

Bonobo

4 July
Manchester Cathedral

Sandunes (Sanaya Ardeshir) was the perfect opener to this epic gig. Dwarfed by the huge columns of Manchester Cathedral, the diminutive figure held her own and transfixed the audience with her magical and eclectic electronica.

Bonobo's return to the UK was highly atmospheric, particularly in the Cathedral’s striking setting. The colourful stained glass windows, the red stone of the arches and the intricate carvings were treated to a new lease of life by bright lights and visuals. The silver, metallic pipes of the organ were a visual centrepiece, with different coloured lights transforming its character.

On the stage, an extensive band consisting of bass, synths, clarinet, sax, flute, trumpet, drums and vocals fell to it straight away, playing a chilled, melodic set. Singer Szjerdene Mulcare revealed her dreamy, powerful vocals on tracks such as the soul-searching ‘Break Apart’, and the ethereal, haunting ‘No Reason’. She had a quiet confidence and graceful presence which was mesmerising.

‘Bambro Koyo Ganda’ was well-received with its danceable handclap beats and worldly vocal samples, and the twinkly, captivating ‘Cirrus’ was another crowd favourite. But its plucked strings, hypnotic beat and world vocals of ‘Kerala’ was another winning track.

A ‘Kiara/TT/Kong’ medley was a belter, with the brass section supporting soaring violins on ‘Kiara’. The addictive ‘Kong’ got feet shuffling with its catchy hook and sublime live flute, but what topped it all was hearing live brass and woodwind weaving together. Delicious.

Anna Tuck