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Concert Reviews:
Sam Smith delivers "a night of love and celebration" at Little Caesars

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Saturday, June 23, 2018

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DETROIT -- Give Sam Smith points for self-awareness

"My music is really (expletive) depressing," the Grammy Award-winning British singer told the crowd at his The Thrill of It All Tour stop Friday night, June 22, at Little Caesars Arena. Nevertheless, Smith promised he and his team would be "working hard to make sure you guys leave tonight feeing really good and really happy."

And Smith delivered over the course of a decisively uptempo hour-and-45-minute show that lived up to his declaration of "a night of love and celebration."

The 22-song performance did reveal that amidst often dour, lovelorn lyricism, Smith -- who sported three outfits during the show -- has more upbeat material on his two studio albums than one might realize. Bolstered by a tight five-piece band, four backup singers and sharp production -- a slender, triangular stage that jutted into the arena floor with a pyramid-like structure at its rear -- Smith had the healthy, if not sold-out, Little Caesars crowd on its feet much of the night, singing along to soul-pop favorites such as "One Last Song," "Nirvana," "Baby, You Make Me Crazy" and "Midnight Train" and dancing for renditions of his Disclosure collaborations "Omen" and "Latch" as well as Smith's own "Money On My Mind," "Like I Can" and the disco-flavored "Restart."

The James Bond theme "Writing's On The Wall," meanwhile, was as "(expletive) dramatic" as Smith exulted at the end of the song.

Those, meanwhile, helped frame the night's more intimate numbers. Smith sang with expression but avoided the gratuitous and over-emotive tropes favored by many of his peers as he pored through the show-opening "Burning," "I'm Not The Only One," "Say It First" and the gay empowerment anthem "HIM." "Scars," performed just by Smith and "bestest friend" Brendan Grieve on guitar, was especially moving, while a romp through the Georgia Mass Choir's "I Sing Because I'm Happy," with Smith and the backing singers huddled around the piano was a too-quick highlight.

And during the encore "The Thrill Of It All's" "Palace" and "Pray" sandwiched Smith's breakthrough hit "Say You Will," with heart-shaped confetti falling from above the stage.

Smith took some time during the show to marvel at the size of the arena in comparison to Masonic Temple, the site of his only other Detroit appearance back in January of 2015. "To be able to come back with this stage in this room is (expletive) incredible," Smith noted. And the same, expletive included, could be said about his performance on Friday.

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