Considering his recent Grammy and Brit Award successes, Wolverhampton’s Civil Hall was an unlikely home to Sam Smith for two sold out nights on his recent tour in support of his worldwide number-one album, In The Lonely Hour. Judging by the likes of the people queuing outside the Civic, it was clear that his music reaches a wide spectrum of people – I’d say I was one of the younger people there to watch his performance.
Support came in the form of Kwabs, a soulful singer-songwriter from South London. Opening the show with synth-influenced ‘Wrong Or Right’, he had the crowd hooked and clapping in time within the first few notes. Asking the packed-out standing audience if they were “ready to dance?” with everyone swaying from left to right, Kwabs launched into the rest of his set.
Despite several mic issues, it was obvious why he was the perfect support act – not only was his attire very Sam Smith-esque (they both seem to have a penchant for wearing long coats indoors), song ‘Cheating On Me’ had a similar gospel influence and slowed the pace of the show down. Kwabs’ set then took a slightly different turn, launching into a bluesy cover of Arctic Monkey’s famous single ‘Do I Wanna Know?’. In fact, it wasn’t until the chorus I realised it was a cover of an Arctic’s single – it was a classy and very different version that the audience responded to eagerly. Ending with his most famous single so far, ‘Walk’ (familiar to many of those who’ve played Fifa 15), his performance was met with a standing ovation from the seated audience and many a cheer and clap. We’d been satisfied, but were hungry for the main act.
As the lights and curtains (emblazoned with Disclosure-style doodles of his face) went down, the room erupted with cheers as Sam Smith appeared on stage. Opening with ‘Life Support’, he simply stood on stage and let his vocals do the talking. And boy, did they do a good job.
Unsurprisingly, the setlist was full of powerful ballads surrounding the issues of love and heartbreak in typical Sam Smith fashion, with Smith himself remarking, “I’ll try and make this fun”. Both ‘Leave Your Lover’ and ‘I’m Not The Only One’ elicited a room-wide sing-along, with many of the crowd waving their arms in time. It really was a lovely sight to behold.
Throughout the evening, Smith made sure to introduce his songs properly to his audience. Before singing ‘I’ve Told You Now’, he talked of how, before writing his debut album, he was making ‘the shittest music you’ve ever heard’, and told the crowd it wasn’t until he’d started being himself and no longer conforming to media stereotypes that people started listening to him. He called his album “truly, [his] diary”, something that I’m sure rings true to everyone who has ever listened to his material.
He dedicated ‘Nirvana’, a song from his first EP of the same name, to the fans “who have been there from the beginning” before changing tempo entirely and launching into single ‘Like I Can’. It was a change we all welcomed, and many people around me started to have a dance with their partners. In fact, when performing ‘Restart’, Smith prompted the entire audience to get up and dance along with himself and his backing dancers, going as far as to teach everyone his moves.
Simplistic lighting and a piano were his only accompaniments as he performed his recent number-one Comic Relief single ‘Lay Me Down’, a version re-released with R&B icon John Legend. You could hear a penny drop, everyone watching in complete awe. People can say what they want about Sam Smith, but you cannot deny the man has one seriously gorgeous voice. A cover of Richard Rodger’s classic ‘My Funny Valentine’ further cemented this.
Closing the set, the Civic had another go at karaoke, as Smith performed his Naughty Boy hit ‘La La La’ (although a much more soulful and jazzy interpretation, of course) and number-one single ‘Money on My Mind’. He even mashed this final song up with CeCe Peniston’s ‘Finally’, a treat for everyone who loves their cheesy pop.
The encore was, again, a typically emotional affair. Following ‘Latch’, the Disclosure track many know him for, Smith performed ‘Make It To Me’, a song he explained was about his future boyfriend, “whoever he may be” before ending the evening with what many would deem as classic Sam Smith – ‘Stay With Me’. You can tell the fame and success has not been taken lightly by Smith, as he simply stood on stage and took it all in, thanking Wolverhampton several times. As everyone left the venue, it was obvious that no one really wanted to go home, and that we’d just witnessed a true star in action.
Originally posted on Redbrick Music.
Words by Kirstie Sutherland