Concert Review: Sam Smith Shines As He Kicks Off His Latest Tour In Atlanta

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Sam Smith performs at MIX 104.1's 'Not So Silent Night at InterContinental Boston on Dec. 9, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Sam Smith can't stop smiling. It's opening night of the young, virtuosic vocalist's debut theater and arena tour. The January 9 concert was sold out – and when it began he appeared on stage, illuminated by a single spotlight, to rapturous applause. Smith had last performed in Atlanta just three months ago, though this time at the Fox Theatre, the stakes were much higher. As he would later mention, Smith has since earned six Grammy nominations, tying with Pharrell and Beyonce for the most nods. His winning debut, In the Lonely Hour, was also 2014's third biggest-selling album, with 1.2 million copies sold.

Yet in everyone's minds, Smith had already won. He may have become famous last year for singing of unrequited love, but his 75-minute set of album cuts and cover songs was nothing short of triumphant. Smith sings of heartache with great care, trying to wrench emotion out of every note. But in this live setting, missed connections appeared to be the last thing on his mind. The disco-lite "Restart" prompted a dance breakdown from Smith and his three back-up dancers: step right, step left, back, front, pose.

(He appeared more at ease when he was singing Destiny's Child at karaoke last fall, but at least he tried.)

During torch song "I've Told You Now," Smith lowered a crucial line – "Why do you think I come 'round here on my free will?" – by a full octave, so that he didn't sound as anguished. His voice glided through even his saddest songs. "I haven't always been this depressed child," he said, though the crowd could have guessed just as much. Not that they would have cared, either.

After "Restart," Smith stood by a grand piano. He insisted that he wanted to be more "natural," so without the band's fanfare for once. To his credit, this set-up was indeed striking, as Smith sang album cuts "Good Thing" and "Lay Me Down," plus a cover of 1937 show tune-turned-jazz standard "My Funny Valentine." His insistence on sounding and appearing timeless only backfired when he performed his ballad version of Naughty Boy's "La La La," a dance hit that now seemed to drag on.

Otherwise, though, he was convincing. Smith, poised pop traditionalist, sang as a few dozen people, young and old, headed to the front of the theater for either selfies or smartphone footage. Couples appeared transfixed, men sang along to every word and tween girls shrieked whenever Smith waved hello. As the night made clear, the point of this concert was never to revel in this man's heartache, but to celebrate his arrival as a bonafide star.

Set List

"Life Support"

"Together"

"Leave Your Lover"

"I'm Not the Only One"

"I've Told You Now"

"Nirvana"

"Like I Can"

"Restart"

"Good Thing"

"Lay Me Down"

"My Funny Valentine" (cover)

"La La La"

"Money On My Mind / Finally" (cover)

Encore 
"Latch"

"Make It to Me"

"Stay With Me"