Photos by Vito Ingerto
I try to keep up with all things top 40 but it gets exhausting and some acts seem to just slip through the cracks. That’s the case when it comes to Sam Smith. Obviously, I know their name and have some imagery from their shows that has left me both bewildered and excited so, although I didn’t know what I was going to get from their show on Wednesday night at The Xcel Energy Center, I knew it was going to be a sight to see and that was all I needed to help get me amped up when heading to my seat.
Opening up the extravagant night was 32-year-old Jessie Reyez. A Canadian singer/songwriter with a story to tell, I was instantly struck by her raw energy and emotion that she brought to the gigantic stage. Although it was just her running around with a band that stayed off to the side of the stage, she had no problem commanding the audience that was trickling in throughout her set. At the beginning of the set, she was giving me K. Flay vibes but that didn’t last and I quickly realized that comparing Jessie to anyone else would be selling her short. Spitfire was another thing that came to mind as she performed. Jessie had an attitude (and a well-warranted one at that). Between the passion that she brought with every track she performed to the way she truly connected with the audience, there was just something slightly spicy but also super sweet and cute about her.
Although the entire set was filled with power, I was most moved by the story she told before jumping into her song “Gatekeeper”. She talked to the audience about her come-up in the industry. She came from humble beginnings as a bartender and bottle service girl (and was quick to recognize the hustle of people with these jobs) and, on one fateful night, met a record executive (or someone like that). She went on to sing for him and, although he was impressed, he went on to tell the young woman that she could be famous but she would have to….” (enter misogynistic act here). Being a female in the industry, I know the struggles. I’ll admit, I’ve had it pretty easy and have gotten really good at standing up for myself but hearing her story broke my heart because, truth be told, a voice like hers doesn’t come around often. Thankfully, this come-up story, as disheartening as it started, has truly blossomed into something beautiful.
Between the sense of poetry that came with every line of words that spilled out of Jessie’s mouth to the energy she showcased as she ran from side to side of the massive stage, I fell for Jessie Reyez and I fell hard. Her music may be leaning a bit poppy for my personal taste but that aggressive edge that comes with it was irresistible. I could clearly go on and on about this opening act but the truth is, as she put it, the audience was there for Sam Smith. She seemed thrilled at the response she got from the audience but also reminded them– “You’re here for Sam, not for me. Enjoy!”
Sam truly showcased their incredible voice on Wednesday night. Instead of relying on smoke and mirrors to give the show a larger-than-life effect, Sam leaned into a more personal style which made him come off as natural, raw, and vulnerable in all of the right ways. If you know Sam, you know they have a truly stunning voice but that wasn’t the highlight for me. The highlight for me was all of the times they thanked the crowd for sticking with them. Through thick and thin, their audience has been a rock, and hearing, seeing, and feeling Sam acknowledge that was indeed a beautiful thing.
Sam’s 90-minute performance came in three acts, Love, Beauty, and Sex. I honestly didn’t quite get the separation between the three acts outside of the outfit changes but maybe had I known the music a bit better, it would have made more sense. As I mentioned, Sam leaned into their more sensitive side and I felt as if the first three-quarters of the set was, although beautiful, just a bit lackluster. I want to stress that I absolutely felt their talent throughout the night but that understated performance seemed to bleed into the energy I was getting at times leaving me a bit bored here and there. All that being said, Sam Smith’s show was not built for me. It was for those fans that they so admiringly thanked throughout the night and to say those fans got their money’s worth would be an understatement.
Sam Smith’s music may not be my thing but they left me wholly dazzled after the performance on Wednesday night. Sam Smith is more than just a flash in the pan and I highly suggest you get on this train rather than trying to resist it.