source : www.timeout.com
Sam Smith’s evolution has reached its euphoric peak during the Gloria tour. This curated three-part experience of Sam’s discography takes you from their early days with stripped-down soulful songs about heartbreak, starting with ‘Stay With Me’, through the awkward growing pains of learning to love themselves, and to a celebratory round of queer discotheque, ending on a high with ‘Unholy’.
Smith kicked off the two-day Sydney leg of their world tour at the Qudos Bank Arena on Friday, November 3. With the Australian-raised Meg Mac as support act – who provided a fitting warm-up with her soulful and emotional music that speaks to Smith’s early work.
Sam is an artist who has spent much of his personal and professional journey in the critical glare of the public spotlight. A nod to the non-binary singer’s growth and nevertheless commitment to personal truth comes early, when the lyric “’cause I’m just a man” in ‘Stay With Me’ is updated to “please, baby, understand” .
Meanwhile, their vocal performances are as strong as ever. As crystal clear as a mastered studio recording, their voice is like brown butter – it sounds smooth, but you can feel every spunky grain of grit and pain. Sam is a beacon of megawatt presence on stage and at the same time has a relaxed charm.
The Sydney dates fall towards the end of the Gloria world tour. Nevertheless, the stage is buzzing with energy. As Smith explained to the sold-out crowd of 13,000, playing in the Harbor City is a bit of a homecoming for them. They have been visiting our city for many years, long before they headlined Sydney Mardi Gras (in 2020, on the brink of the global lockdowns that led them to slow down and Gloria album). They told us, “Sydney was where I found myself.”
The performance that followed was the actualization of someone who has actually found and confirmed himself as a person and as an artist. This is reflected in the set design, in which a soft, erotic image of a male body in gold hangs over the entire stage.
For years, Sam’s career focused on their voice and the emotional connection it created in audiences. In a 2023 interview with Zane Lowe for Apple Music, Sam discussed the limitations of life as a young artist, the vulnerability that comes with producing an album, and the exposure to having your every move dissected on stage themselves, seeking a sense of safety from the public eye as their burgeoning queer identity began to develop. Now those limitations have been completely lifted, and this is reflected in the way the Gloria experience has been creatively directed – from the set design to the evolution of the costumes, which speak to every element and theme of the experience.
The first ensemble they appear in consists of a white business shirt with a black skinny tie, similar to the outfits they would normally wear during the holidays. In The Lonely Hour to dawn. Except the shirt and tie are under an inlaid gold corset. In this costume they sing their standard crowd favorites, including ‘Good at Goodbyes’, ‘Not the Only One’ and ‘Like I Can’. But this is all just the prelude to three ‘chapters’ and six rounds of an evolving performance, interspersed with breaks from the diverse collection of talented dancers.
Chapter one is Love, and their outfit is romantic, with a flowing white blouse trimmed with lace as the centerpiece. In this section they sing ‘I’m Not Perfect’, ‘My Diamonds’, ‘How Do You Sleep?’ (complete with some iconic moves from the music video) and ‘Dancing With a Stranger’.
Chapter two is Beautythis section opens with ambient choral music, and Sam enters in a breathtaking shimmering ball gown with a generous tulle petticoat peeking out from underneath to perform a cover of ‘Kissing You’ (arguably the best cover they’ve ever done) – this then leads into ‘Lay Me Down’ and ‘Love Goes’.
Their next look, which contrasts with the dress, is an all-black denim cowboy fit that fulfills our rhinestone “yeehaw” fantasies. Smith calls on the crowd to help turn the stadium into “a big gay bar” and then sings ‘I’m Not Ready to Lose You’ and the electro-fueled ‘Tonight’ before being adorned with a huge puffy pink jacket for ‘I’m Not Here to Make Friends’ – the same one they wore in the explosive music video, which enraged viewers not used to seeing a body like Sam’s adorned with corsets and nipple tassels.
From there, they emerge in a demure denim jacket and streetwear-style jeans with a white T-shirt with rhinestones, leading to a liberating shirtless boogie on Sam’s cover of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ – a song that does inherently queer think. euphoria on the dance floor.
The religious references are amplified as Smith emerges in a white shroud and crown reminiscent of the Virgin Mary, while the hymn that inspired the tour’s title echoes through the stadium – before the fabric is torn away to reveal an outfit which consists of little more than underwear, nipple pasties, fishnets and over-the-knee boots. The line from Madonna’s song ‘Human Nature’ ‘express yourself, don’t suppress yourself’ is repeated as a motif, a driving force behind the message Smith told us at the top and what this whole show is about: Freedom.
At one point, between slinky dance moves, they grab their bare stomachs and shake them, smiling at themselves and at the audience – and Sam looks great. The performer on this stage is a far cry from the early days of Sam’s career, when there was a sense of hesitation and self-consciousness.
Like many other queer, trans, and non-binary people in the public eye, Smith puts so much of themselves into their art, and they do it with so much love, while also uplifting and showcasing the other artists they share the stage with . Despite the hate and vitriol that continues to be directed at them, Sam is creating a safe and inviting space with this tour.
In the last scene the ‘gay bar’ has grown into a queer cabaret. The fishnet ensemble is layered and embellished with a corset and an elaborate top hat with devil horns for the big closer – the Grammy-winning hit “Unholy” – and it’s a howling hoot.
Sam joins a trend of major queer pop artists playing with religious iconography in ways that can be healing for the queer community, and for anyone who has felt the effects of oppressive binaries and rules.
The comfort Sam now has within himself is palpable, and it also makes their audience feel at ease. A wide range of people from all walks of life filled the arena, and everyone was really into it (there were probably a few shocks for the straight boyfriends who got swept up, and the unsuspecting middle-aged ladies from Sam’s X-Factor era kept) . But Sam is one of those rare queer artists who brings people from multiple communities together.
Their performance never falters. It takes a lot of training and a decent level of fitness to be able to maintain the power and control behind such a voice while also being able to keep up with your dancers and put on a show – not to mention being in a sitting in a corset and stomping around. eight-inch heels.
It’s been five years since Smith brought a tour to Sydney and their fans are longing for a collective cry of healing, yet there were some notable songs missing from the 90-minute set. ‘Love Me More’, the first song released Gloria and an affective self-love song, would be an important integration and crystallizing transition between the Love And Beauty chapters. Nevertheless, the Gloria tour is an impressive reintroduction from an artist who continues to evolve while staying true to himself.
We love Sam in all his facets, but our favorite Sam is the one who isn’t afraid to show us who he really is, and in turn lets us be who we want to be.
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source : www.timeout.com