Live Review: Sam Smith @ Rod Laver Arena

31 October 2023

Meg Mac is joined on stage with two backup singers by her side including her little sister Hannah and long-time friend Danielle as she begins with ‘Every Lie.’ The power in her soulful vocals blows the audience away as she belts out some of her best tracks including ‘Never Be’ and ‘Give Me My Name Back.’ Her raw honesty and emotion pours out in each and every note.

Mac shares a deeply personal and heartfelt track ‘Letter,’ which she reveals is song written about when she should’ve written a letter to someone else, but instead wrote this song. For fans who have written to her on this tour, she’s making special postcards out of the letters in return.

A sea of ‘Unholy’ light-up devil horn headbands worn by the audience illuminate the arena as we wait patiently for the main act.

A horned figure wearing a long flowing golden cape, parades across the stage with an inflatable golden body lying horizontally on its stomach. We can hear the sound of footsteps echoing throughout the arena as they walk up the golden stairs and eerie creaking sounds with gasping breaths can be heard. They reach a golden piano and a musician begins to play a dramatic instrumental piece to welcome Sam Smith as they rise up through the floor centre stage.

Wearing a shimmering golden outfit with a chandelier corset over a white shirt and black tie, Smith begins with ‘Stay With Me’ commencing the prelude of his setlist with four of the most popular slower-tempo gospel ballads from their first two albums. Smith’s live vocals are so good they send chills down our spine.

“I’m so grateful to be back here, not just for one night but two nights after five years of not seeing you. I want to say from the bottom pf my heart, thank you so much for supporting me,” says Smith.

“Are you guys ready to have some fun with us tonight? This show is so special to all of us and we have six shows left of this tour, which means we’re going to be giving you every last bit of energy and love that we have in us before Christmas.”

“This show is a special thing and for me, this night tonight is about love, friendship, family and so many things but there’s just one thing that I want you to take away with you tonight, and that is a word called ‘freedom.’ This show is about freedom, it’s about having fun, so please make friends tonight and say hello to people around you. Let’s sing, let’s dance and take your tops off if you want, it’s okay I do it. Let’s just have a good time and escape together in this room.” They continue this part of the set with ‘Too Good At Goodbyes.’

“Happy Halloween,” says Smith. They look around the room and admire all the costumes, pointing out a lot of men in bad wig, which they love. Smith removes their corset and changes into a frilly blouse and continues with part one of the set titled ‘Love,’ comprising of some more up-tempo songs from his third album and ‘Perfect’ from their new album, performed with a singer named Lucy from their band.

Smith dedicates a song they wrote six years ago (‘Dancing With A Stranger’) to anyone in the room who’s feeling a bit heartbroken. They call for everyone to get up on their feet and move their bodies around as they dance seductively with a microphone stand.

Part three of the set is titled ‘Beauty’ and Smith emerges at the top level of the stage in a magnificent sparkling gown and sings an emotional ballad which is a cover of Des’ree’s ‘Kissing You’.

“This part of this tour and this show for me is my favourite moment of the show because when I made this album ‘Gloria’ it was a very different time in the world for all of us. When I made this music, we couldn’t share music together in spaces like this and for me and for some may people in the arts, music, theatre, it was the first time we had stopped performing and singing since we were very young. It was during that time and for the first time that it properly hit me, the reason why I love what I do so much, and the truth is I love to sing, I love music and I love you, Smith reveals.”

“Every single day I get to spend with my friends, the most talented musicians, artists and dancers and I missed them more than anything else in the world. I promised myself that when I came back on tour, that I would use this time to introduce those friends of mine to you,” Smith shares. Smith introduces a singer named ‘The Donna’ to the stage to perform a duet of ‘Lay Me Down’ and the audience raises their phone torches to light up the room.

There’s a noticeable shift in the set when they reach ‘Gimme’ and things quickly take a turn from an elegantly performing Smith, to a darker side as he emerges in a black outfit complete with a top hat that has golden horns. Dancers begin to dance seductively around them gyrating up against each other and twerking around the stage.

Even though it’s Tuesday night Smith asks us to pretend it’s Friday night as they reach a dance-heavy part of the set including two collaborations of theirs with Calvin Harris (‘Promises’ and ‘I’m Not Here To Make Friends’). Smith makes another outfit change into a fluffy hot pink overcoat and featured in the video clip for the song.

Smith goes back to basics in a casual denim outfit for the song that launched their career with their Disclosure collab ‘Latch,’ and lasers stream out at the audience for the heavy club track. It transitions into a cover of Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’ and the dancers form a circle around Smith as they proceed to strip off their shirt and swing it overhead at the climax of the final chorus.

Smith leaves the stage as the dancers continue a choreographed routine. They return for the final part of the concert titled ‘Sex’ wearing a long sheath material covering their whole head and body as they sing with a choir soundtrack on ‘Gloria.’

After the very orchestral angelic piece concludes, the music cuts and Smith suddenly strips off to reveal a dominatrix style outfit and with black knee-high boots, fishnets, a G-string and spiderweb nipple coverings. They dance seductively to a cover of Madonna’s ‘Human Nature’ leading up to the big finale of ‘Unholy.’ It’s a moment that feels disjointed, forced and unnecessarily demonic as if it’s some kind of satanic ritual with Smith embodying a devil-like creature complete with creepy reptilian eye contacts, bedazzled red horns and a trident. It may seem appropriate for this Halloween, but this part of the performance feels way too dark and heavy, leaving us with an almost off-putting end to his otherwise spectacular show.

Words by Michael Prebeg

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