Sam Smith at Madison Square Garden, January 16, 2015 – Concert Review
January 18, 2015
ZEALnyc Pop Music Editor
Since his first gig at the tiny Mercury Lounge (250 capacity) in New York a year and half ago, Sam Smith has skyrocketed to musical fame and now finds himself performing to a sold out crowd at Madison Square Garden which holds about 18,000.
Sam’s sole album In the Lonely Hour sold over one million copies in the U.S., making it the third best-selling album of 2014, just behind Taylor Swift 1989 (3.6 million) and the Frozen soundtrack (3.5 million). It also spawned two Top Five hits Stay with Me and I’m Not the Only One, leading to six Grammy nominations.
The show was a music lover’s dream spotlighting Sam’s incredible unique falsetto voice to draw his audience in without any flashy special effects, showy dance moves or costumes. After all, that has been the key driver to his success and his allegiance by his millions of fans.
This night did not disappoint! Sam played a 16 song set lasting about 80 minutes which was filled with pure emotional heartbreak and love. He held the audience lovingly in the palm of his hand throughout the evening by telling stories including the history for each song.
Sam put his wounds on full display with the gorgeous Life Support and one of his personal favorites Leave Your Lover showcasing his signature high range. You can feel his pain on such haunting ballads as I’m Not the Only One and Lay Me Down, the latter starting out a cappella with the crowd joining before being accompanied by piano.
Sam’s heartbreak turned to anger, during I’ve Told You Now, which he announced to the crowd is his personal therapy song. Sam’s voice was so spot-on and smooth, it made the large venue seem intimate and cozy.
He mixed up the tempo with the upbeat and soulful grooves of Together and Nirvana which were Motown-like and the dance-themed Restart which featured Sam and his backup singers showing off some simple choreographed dance moves.
Sam was in awe of the size of the arena and very humble and appreciative of his success telling the audience “I never thought I’d be standing on this stage in just a year and a half… This is truly a dream come true”.
Later in the set, Sam performed a stripped down version of the Naughty Boy cover of La La La showing off his range and depth followed by Money on My Mind which sampled the disco hit Finally by Ce Ce Peniston.
Returning to the stage for the encore, Sam asked the crowd to turn their phones on and wave them in the air which turned the Garden into a sea of lights. He then went into a stripped down version of Latch which started off great and then turned brilliant when midway through the song, he stopped the band to announce he had a surprise guest to join him. That guest was none other than Disclosure (whom he was featured guest on the original version). They continued with a pumped up techno version of the song which was a personal highlight for me. The finale of Stay with Me sounded as scorching live as on record.
Sam continues to demonstrate why he is one of the best vocalists out there today. He is here to stay and has a solid chance to add some Grammy awards in a few weeks to his already impressive resume.