In St. Paul, Sam Smith was sexy, emotional, a bit raunchy and very liberating

In St. Paul, Sam Smith was sexy, emotional, a bit raunchy and very liberating

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In St. Paul, Sam Smith was sexy, emotional, a bit raunchy and very liberating
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After deep-seated anxiety and weighty insecurities, Sam Smith may have finally found themselves.

When Smith emerged with the Grammy-grabbing 2014 debut “In the Lonely Hour,” they (pronouns they/them) were compared to Adele. In Smith’s third appearance in St. Paul, their show Wednesday night at Xcel Energy Center brought Madonna to mind. Smith’s concert was undeniably sexy, highly emotional, delightfully danceable, a bit raunchy and ultimately liberating.

“Tonight is about freedom,” Smith said early in the 90-minute performance. “Make some friends. Let’s sing. Let’s dance and take your tops off.”

Freedom to love who you love, to feel vulnerable and sad, to feel seen and supported, to be who you want to be and celebrate it, to dress in gender-blending outfits and to follow your dreams.

Smith certainly seemed free and comfortable in their own skin for the first time on a Twin Cities stage. But the show may not have been everything the British star dreamed of.

At 31, Smith remains one of pop’s most enthralling vocalists. Their gorgeous, reedy tenor was perfect Wednesday at selling sad songs, even if Smith seemed to be smiling too much delivering aching lyrics (or was it the incipient handlebar moustache that added glee to their visage?).

The biggest issue was the staging. A massive gold statue of a reclining Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, was splayed from one side of the stage to the other. That left little space for dancers, and, to make matters worse, the choreography was largely unimaginative and none of the six dancers would have passed an audition to perform with Beyonc├ę or Madonna.

As for Smith’s own dancing, it suggested a slow-motion John Travolta parody, sort of like Wednesday night fever. No doubt, though, Smith was having fun. No more so than whirling to a recording of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love,” taking their top off and waving it exultantly overhead to the Euro-disco beat. Comfortable in their own skin, indeed.

There was plenty of music to dance to, and the 10,000 fans did, to everything from the exuberant “Latch,” Disclosure’s 2012 hit featuring Smith, to this year’s bouncy “I’m Not Here To Make Friends” and minimalist “Gimme,” a PG entreaty for sex featuring hyper-emotional opening act Jessie Reyez, the Canadian pop singer.

Accompanied by four musicians and three backup singers, Smith started the night with two of their biggest hits, “Stay with Me,” the Grammy-winning breakthrough, and “I’m Not the Only One,” two pleading ballads of unrequited love from their debut album. Those tunes were part of “Love,” the title of Act 1. Thereafter came Beauty as well as Sex.

No matter the act, Smith had eye-grabbing outfits ÔÇö a silver sparkling and white taffeta ballgown, a humongous, puffy Barbie-pink robe worn while dancers waved hand fans, and a thong, fishnet stockings and nipple tassels while singing a cover of Madonna’s “Human Nature.”

“Welcome to my gay cabaret,” Smith beckoned during the inevitable “Unholy,” the 2022 Grammy-winning smash duet with Kim Petras (who appeared via a video screen) that had the crowd going wild. The presentation took on the hellish vibe of Smith and Petras’ Grammy Awards performance, complete with flames and a devil’s trident.

The encore was as intriguing as it was odd. It was “Vulgar,” Smith’s brand new duet with Madonna. However, it was simply a recording with Smith’s six dancers cavorting and the pop star nowhere to be seen.


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In St. Paul, Sam Smith was sexy, emotional, a bit raunchy and very liberating

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