Sam Sparro @ The Toff – 08/03/2012
On Thursday night at The Toff, the dim-lit dance floor was maxed out with fabulously groomed people, hands talking and toes tapping in anticipation. I don’t know how it happened but one minute I was gazing out across Swanston Street through the back glass windows waiting for Sam Sparro to show his baby face and then suddenly the curtains had parted and I was being serenaded by the same seductive saxophone that was hypnotizing the whole crowd into sassy rubber-necking funk junkies.
After a very sexy prologue, the classy Sparro strutted onto the stage wearing black spectacles and a button up white collared shirt, pulling a loud applause and waves of wolf whistles. As soon as the floor toms kicked in, the talented dancer shimmied through lashings of reverb. Then, channelling the same edgy body snaps as the late Michael Jackson, Sparro flicked the disco switch and delivered each song with badass conviction and some serious diva attitude.
The Australian-born singer songwriter was supported by an impressively tight and soulful live band privy to instrument swaps and multi-layered vocal harmonies. Next to Sparro stood two show-stealing back-up singers who used choreographed dance moves, crashing hand percussion and intense emotional articulation to give the show a pulsating energy and sizzling live presence. The squeal of the saxophone and screeching vocal trills made for explosive crescendos; these textured band build-ups were complemented by regular steps back to only keyboard and one smooth vocal melody, polishing the perfectly dynamic masterpiece.
Performing songs off his debut self-titled album Sam Sparro, as well as new tracks off his upcoming album Return to Paradise to be released this spring, the charismatic singer solidified his niche sound, marking his music as an explosion of disco house and funk. The all-familiar “Pocket” had people grooving and chanting the wise words with vigour and knowing: “Keep your friends close and your enemies in your pocket.” The 2008 ARIA Single Of the Year “Black and Gold” lived up to everything I had hoped, the cool trance-lounge intro igniting a spark in every bopping trend-head in the joint. The popular dance tune was so precisely reminiscent of the recorded track, but still alive and urgent.
In between songs, Sparro had the crowd in stitches with his naughty and suggestive banter, which saw him describe his spiteful post-break up tune “I Wish I Never Met You” as “c****.” Asking for forgiveness at his writing of a ballad, Sparro introduced us to his more sensitive side, continuing to layer sweet falsetto over an uplifting synth and bittersweet trickling keyboard melodies. After a highly emotional release, the crowd were soon left giggling when the natural entertainer broke the reflective silence to whisper sexually, “Okay… I need to get some happiness back into my life…” Then without further adieu, in came that air-tight kick and snare, “Happiness you belong to me…”
Finishing on a scarily steep high, Sam Sparro’s grandiose encore was an epic display of golden musical foolery. Breathing new life into one of his popular hits, Sparro performed “21st Century Life” with an added game of freestyle, where he and the female backup singer engaged in some impressive call and response vocal gymnastics. Rocking a white singlet and a thick coating of sweat, Sparro danced around like a genius of the groove, inspiring many recipricol side-to-side steps and general crowd swagger.
And then, one last wave goodbye saw the curtains close for good. Sam Sparro slunk away back into the night just as he had come, and I found myself staring back out of the glass window again, this time fulfilled and totally funkified.
by Phoebe Spinks