A MERE one album into his career as unthreatening soul boy, Sam Smith’s trophy cupboard is already groaning with heavyweight awards.
O2 Academy, Glasgow
His appeal as a singer and performer is broad but, to these ears, elusive. While he does the sincere pop star-next-door thing so well, constantly validating the fans with humble words of thanks, his absence of star quality meant that this show was lacking in authority, excitement and anything but the most blandly expressed sentiment.
Smith is not so much old school as old-fashioned, like a male Emeli Sandé, valuing songwriting craft while plumping safely for the middle of the road confessional. Save for the modern R&B pop feel of Like I Can and the drum-and-bass backing of Money on My Mind, there was little here which could not have been heard at a Kool & the Gang show circa 1982 - antiseptic rock guitar, incidences of slap bass, jazz funk keyboard licks and well drilled gospel backing singers. Kool & the Gang, however, would always bring the funk. Smith and his band were slick to the point of soporific.
He milked Comic Relief ballad Lay Me Down in his mildly beseeching tone and made a similar lounge bar meal out of My Funny Valentine, with recorded string flourish (just in case there were any James Bond producers in the room). Naughty Boy’s La La La was similarly reworked to take all the joy out of its sampled and looped earworm hook while the closing Stay With Me roused the room as well as any vacuous anthem down the years.
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