Sammy Rae and the Friends at the Hammersmith Apollo Review: A Theatrical, Musical Masterclass

Friday 17 November 2023

Sammy Rae and the Friends
Hammersmith Apollo 

Sammy Rae and the Friends took over the Eventim Apollo last night for the London stop on their Camp Tour and what a glorious night it was. Under the magnetic leadership of vocalist and songwriter Samantha Rae Bowers, the Brooklyn-based septet dazzled the audience with impeccable vocals, riffs and infectious enthusiasm. Their unique blend of jazz, funk and folk with a dash of theatre kid for good measure created an electrically warm atmosphere and made the venue feel like it was hosting one big party.

From the get go it's Sammy's utterly magnetic presence which draws you in. Her infectious energy creates an almost instantaneous connection with the audience that continues throughout and provides the ingredients for a really special night. Whether belting out stellar vocals (that sound just as good if not better than on the albums), laying on the stage or bantering with the audience, Sammy Rae proves to be an outstandingly charismatic band leader, who knows how to command a stage.

The Friends, the ridiculously talented ensemble of musicians who accompany the show are as good as it gets. They each get moments to shine and showcase their musical skills which are universally outstanding, and alongside that they get to show their chemistry with one another. The whole group seem to be having the time of their lives on stage, creating a bubbling vibe which reaches into the audience and pulls us into the fold. Positivity is the heartbeat of this group and it's joyous to behold.

The setlist provided a great mix of familiar favourites including Talk it Up and Jackie Onassis as well as some sneak peeks at tracks from their upcoming album. Particularly moving was the soon to be released David, which focusses on men's mental health and is incredibly beautiful and poignant. There were also a couple of covers, with Abba's Lay All Your Love on Me proving a real audience favourite. Throughout, Sammy Rae and Friends effortlessly transitioned between vocal styles and genres, going from calmer more soulful pieces to the exuberant high-octane numbers. The diverse repertoire continually showcased the band's musical aptitude and versatility.

Alongside expert musicianship, the evening was truly a celebration of community, as fostered by the group and the infectious, frivolous atmosphere they crafted. Whilst the songs explore a lot of serious themes, the group maintain a carefree persona and invite the audience to enjoy the moment and celebrate the good things life has to offer.

The Camp tour isn't anchored around a specific album so the evening was a great chance to revel in the signature hits, whilst becoming excited for what's next in the Sammy Rae discography. The combination of Sammy Rae's magnetic stage presence, the exceptional talent of the Friends, a thoughtfully curated setlist and a welcoming crowd, affirmed the group as a formidable force in the music industry and made a promise that we'll be seeing and hearing much more of them. They certainly earned their badges for riffing, raving and raising the roof!

Reviewed on Thursday 16th November 2023 by Olivia
Photo Credit: Mia Isabella Photography

{AD PR Invite- tickets gifted in exchange for honest review}