Exuding a blues soaked range more allied with that of Nina Simone, a reluctant extravagance that heightens his attachment to his throng of supporters and a spine of compositions that would make any vintage 40s collection, his foreseeable rise as Adele’s only successor to her blue-eyed soul throne of Britain has become one of the country’s most impassioned tales. Disillusioned about his image, sound and his self-assurance, rewind two years and his story becomes greater. Back for the first time at Manchester’s Apollo Theatre since his support slot with Emile Sande, London born soul troubadour Sam Smith reaffirms his new found status.
Smith’s allure is coined through his organic lacing of heart-rending sentiments with seeds of serenity. ‘I’ve Told You Now’ portrayed an intoxicated discussion surrounding the constructive consequences of indulging in self-worth (“wasting all my precious time, oh, the truth spills out and oh I’ve, I’ve told you now”). ‘Money on My Mind’ – crashing in with a gospel flavoured collage of backing vocalists; the track illustrates Smith’s visionary aptitude for integrating contemporary sound bites of 00s soul with gravelly patterns of dance floor electronics – was a mighty denunciation on the industry that breeds cash hungry artists detached from their admirers; something Smith continually reminded his audience he wasn’t about. “All the Grammys, all the Brits. That doesn’t matter. The true honour is being here to perform for you.” Disparate from his contemporaries, his candour demeanour made it even more credible.
Naturally for songs entranced in metaphors, a voice of such variation is critical. Needless to say each individual on our island culturally coupled with today’s modish charts will value the magnitude of Smith’s temper. Until experienced physically, the towering reverberations are implausible. ‘Leave Your Lover’ – twisted within its narrative of spurned romance – saw pianist Rubin James accompany Smith. Before full bodied, quakes of dramatic melodies, his voice depicted a broken soul; delicate, fragile, torn. ‘Lay Me Down’ incorporated hesitant murmurs of Amy Winehouse’s ‘Me and Mr Jones’ following a nerve jolting opening phrase that simply hurt for the theatrics.
‘I’m Not the Only One’ reminds itself of the blues soaked appeal that singer’s like John Newman cry out for. ‘My Funny Valentine’ and ‘La La La’ were renditions coloured heavily with Smith’s optimistic aura. For all the desolate undertones evolved from within his debut ‘In the Lonely Hour’, these snapshots of instinctive tendencies were welcome; even if we came to support Smith after the trials that made it.
‘Stay With Me’ embodies all that the world now loves about Smith. On first listen it’s drenched with desolate Coldplay meets Norah Jones key progressions, but ultimately is enriched by the staggering scale of Smith’s hook laced utterances.
A rush of pride is always released when one of our own goes to the States and wins something. Winehouse. Adele. Coldplay. But there is something gratifying to know that Smith’s future is now planned out for him. We’re just glad those dark days are behind him.
Words by Clive K Hammond