- Live Review
- 17 Apr 23
As a part of their Gloria Tour, Sam Smith delivered an emotionally healing and unapologetically freeing, unrestrained show at Dublin's own 3Arena last Friday, supported by the British singer-songwriter Cat Burns.
If, between the long lines and security checks, the bouncing of excited feet in line and the hushed, reverent whispers shared by show-goers was indicative of anything, how the crowd reacted to the lights going down for the start of Sam Smith's 3Arena Gloria Tour show would be telling enough.
In the standing crowd, people stood before the stage like it was an altar. Their heads were adorned with the light-up flower crowns sold outside the arena and their hands armed with phones ready to start filming. On stage, a massive sheet covered an irregular shape, the glorious ground-zero for Smith's dynamic show.
In the dark, it glowed softly from gold stage lights lining the floor as the British singer-songwriter Cat Burns walked into view to hit the night off. After opening the night with her single 'ghosting,' she then addressed the crowd, thanking them for "giving her energy."
"First off, I'll be honest, Dublin, today was not a great day for me," Burns began. Smith's album Gloria, and the following tour, is centred around the encouragement of self-love, self-acceptance, and self-confidence - and Burns' vulnerable opening speech reflected that.
"At first I was like 'Maybe I'll lie,' but no. You know how you just have those days where you're like, 'I hate how I look, I don't like how I look,' and you really feel like you're not confident in yourself? It's been like that for me today and last night."
"But I knew that this was going to be an amazing gig, you guys are giving me so much energy, so thank you so much."
Leading into her second song, Cat Burns disclosed that 'Free' was written about her coming-out.
"If there's any gay people in the building - yes, we're here, we're queer. I wrote this song about coming out to my family when I was really scared about how they were going to react, but for me, it was the most freeing thing I could be."
After sharing the emotionally moving 'Go,' Cat stepped away from her own music for a minute. Having toured with the English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran on his 2022 +–=÷× Tour, she invited the audience to sing along with her a cappella style to a song he wrote: Justing Bieber's 'Love Yourself.'
With 'We're Not Kids Anymore' and 'people pleaser,' Burns raved about her love for the Gloria show and Sam as a person.
"Part of the reason why I said 'yes' to supporting them was the fact that I could just watch the show for the next six weeks for free."
Before she finished her set with a reprise of 'Go,' Burns led into 'live more & love more' imparting upon the 3Arena crowd an important message on loving life and living well.
"I tried my best to, in the least cringey way possible, tell you all to live life to its absolute fullest, because you only get one."
Afterwards, there was a short intermission before the main event. Finally, elegantly and regally like a sovereign, a figure glided onto the set of the North Wall Quay amphitheatre. A billowing cape flowed behind them between the audible clicks of their platform heels.
Setting the tone for the performative show, they slowly gazed at the fabric covering the irregularly shaped set then artfully, deliberately pulling it off to reveal the sprawling form of stage of Gloria.
Behind the titanous woman's form, a piano rose. Climbing the stairs positioned in the set's knees, the person disappeared behind the head as a trio of back-up singers took their cues in front, singing the harmonious choir-like opening to 'Stay With Me.'
An iconic start to an iconic show, Sam Smith emerged from a platform above the body, dressed in a magnificent golden outfit. Right hand tucking their hat over their eyes, hipped cocked and suit-jacket thrown over their shoulder, Sam Smith took the stage in a gilded corset, complete with their tie looped through a hoop centred over their heart.
After being joined by the rest of their accompanying, touring band, Smith started 'I'm Not the Only One.' The well-known, well-beloved 2014 single captured resonated with hearts in the audience, leading to a resounding sing-along that prompted Smith to extend a mic into the singing crowd, encouraging the crowd to get louder.
Descending closer to the standing crowd, 'Like I Can' was introduced with a rocking, pulsing beat, departing from the choir feel of the night's first two songs.
After 'Nirvana,' 'Too Good at Goodbyes' returned to the style with a heartfelt, serenade-like performance where Smith took to the cradled, raised platform just outside of the Gloria stage's arm. It was closely followed with their 2020 single 'To Die For.'
Dividing the night into three acts, Act I: Love clearly took on an attentive, passionate appreciation for all kinds of intimate love. The introductory interludes highlighted the themes of the star's show, reminding the audience about not just romantic love, but self-love.
"Love: With yourself or another, search for that significant other. I need you here to love. Above all its a feel for just me and you. Us, together."
Gone was the gold, the curve of the statue's back painted chrome. Black and white images across the side and back screens emphasised a form of self-love, singular body parts broken down into delicate parts of the whole.
'Perfect' took on a personal, intimate air as Smith, having lost the corset, tucked themselves into the crook of the stage's neck. Save for a pink spotlight on the singer, they were otherwise only lit by the back screens.
Moving beyond just dramatic theatrics, 'How Do You Sleep?' saw Smith grooving across the stage, dancing with their guitarist. At least until, a sudden, single word at the end cued flashing lights and an energetic mood change.
"Dublin!" Smith called. "It's Friday night tonight. Is anyone single in the audience?" Smith asked, heralding 'Dancing with a Stranger. "You just got to dance with someone else. That's what you got to do."
It concluded the first section of the night. With "intrigue and access," Act II: Beauty saw Sam emerge through the rain-like green lights, donning an emerald, floor-length gown and headdress with the word 'Queer' written in ribbon for 'Kissing You.'
"Hey Dublin, you doing okay?" The singer softly, kindly asked to resounding cheers. "Do you like my big green dress?"
"So this, this next song I want to sing to you is a very special song. It's been with me in my life for over ten years. Tonight I have the great honour of singing a few songs with two people who have been with me on the road singing for that time. I do not know how I would do my job and do these things in life without them."
It was a soft, gracious beginning to 'Lay Me Down,' calling for applause for the two musicians, who had been singing back-up to Smith throughout the night. Singing the reverent lyrics of the song with only the piano and the audience to accompany them, Sam sang their heart out before featuring each artist on 'How to cry' and 'Love Goes' respectively.
The previous song introduced back-up dancers to the scene, and 'Gimme' certainly made use of them.
"Dublin make some noise."
The stage, gold again in the flickering, flashing lights, was covered in lounging, sensuous dancers, introducing the sparking embers of a burning, sexy spunk to a night that had previously been predominantly only glorious and gracious.
As desire permeated the night, Smith sang 'Lose You' standing undaunted amid writhing dancers. 'Promises' was much of the same. The show started off as an emotional liberation from the fears and doubts that bogged you down, but Act II: Beauty felt like the permission to explore newfound freedom.
If the intro music wasn't enough, the iconic pink frock that Smith quickly donned would have been telling enough for eager fans to know what was coming next. Known for its appearance in Sam Smith's 'I'm Not Here To Make Friends' music video, it prompted the audience's own singing to be on par with the mic-ed up star of the night.
Apt choices for the conclusion of Act II, 'One Last Song' and 'I Feel Love' were accompanied with a vibrant light show of lasers and rainbow disco decorating the dark.
The sensuous and long-awaited Act III: Sex was then announced with the declarative, self-affirming statement, "I am a goddess."Smith came out for 'Gloria' dressed in a floor-length, see-through veil, thigh-high boots, elbow-length gloves, and little else, save a crown holding the veil in place.
The transformation from saint-like deity to sinner was so fast that you could miss it, the drop of the golden shroud revealing the clothing beneath the veil to be a deep, enthralling blood red and seductive black.
The breathy, overhead recording chanting "Express yourself don't repress yourself" overlaid with the flickering spotlight over Smith's head, not unlike the thematic lighting for the ominous, nail-biting crux moment found in thriller films heralded a final, new direction to Smith's show.
With black-cloaked people coming up to take selfies with an unphased Smith sang a haunting, capturing rendition of Madonna's 'Human Nature.'
"Oops, I didn't know I couldn't talk about sex."
Amid the backlash against their changing image, it was a final, unapologetic declaration that they are proud of who they have become. Dressed in a new black corset on stage, they became a subversion of their opening appearance but nonetheless still proud. Proud of not only the emotionally focused loves that but the dark, carnal desires - both important facets to experiencing love in its entirety.
As for their final song of the night, well... as with the Grammys and the Brit Awards, what Sam Smith performance is complete without a little 'Unholy' flair?
"Dublin, thank you so much for having us tonight. We love you so much. I hope you're having a good time! But for now," they bid, "Welcome to my gig!"
Surrounded by temptations, dancing like one, and singing of it all, Sam ended the night as fire lit the stage. Climbing to the top of the Gloria statue, Smith popped out wearing a three-pronged horned hat and furred coat, wielding a bright red, glittering devil's trident.
With command of the room since the start of the night to the very end, Sam Smith finished out their 3Arena show with an alluring charm and bewitching stage presence, knocking the whole glorious performance out of the park.
Check out Hot Press's January cover issue interview with Sam Smith here:
Check out the dates for the rest of Sam Smith's Gloria Tour here:
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