Bonnaroo 2014: Sam Smith Woos With Emotional Breakout Performance

Sam Smith
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A few months ago, a Sam Smith festival set would have meant an introduction to a rising tastemaker favorite. With "Stay With Me" breaking into the Top 10 of the Hot 100, Smith's Bonnaroo set marked one of his first shows as a true American star.

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By now, even casual music fans have gotten acquainted with the gut-wrenching earnestness of "Stay With Me,” which follows the Disclosure team-up “Latch” as Smith’s second U.S. hit and his biggest smash to date. Smith’s Friday afternoon set at Bonnaroo’s Other Stage served as a test run of his debut album before the masses. The 22-year old British singer-songwriter played the majority of the upcoming "In the Lonely Hour” to a highly curious, ultimately appreciative crowd that backed him every step of the way.

Aside from possessing a dazzling, heart-melting vocal range, Smith pulls his appeal from a humble, completely likable persona that makes him easy to root for. “This is my first American festival,” he announced after opening with “Nirvana,” hinting to the audience his amazement (and perhaps a little nervousness) to be playing before such a sprawling sea of faces.

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Smith favored the slower ballads early in the set, before dropping in more uptempo tracks such as “Like I Can” to get the audience grooving. Since most of the crowd had not yet heard the deeper cuts from “Lonely Hour” (which drops June 17 in the U.S.), Smith peppered his set with familiar tracks; the teerjerking plea “Leave Your Lover” was an early highlight and later on, a cover of the Arctic Monkeys’ “Do I Wanna Know?” raised the tempo during the set’s midsection.

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To close the 50-minute set, Smith brought out the crowd-pleasers. First there was the stripped-down, Smith-centric take of Disclosure’s “Latch” (which appears on “Lonely Hour’s” deluxe edition) and finally, “Stay With Me” provided the emotional catharsis. The breakthrough hit has only been high on the charts for a few weeks, but the fervor with which the crowd clapped along and belted the lyrics suggested a song that’s been beloved for much longer.

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Sam Smith will likely remember this day for a long, long time.

Here’s the set list from Sam Smith’s Bonnaroo show:

1. Nirvana
2. Good Thing
3. Leave Your Lover
4. I’m Not the Only One
5. Like I Can
6. Restart
7. Do I Wanna Know? (Arctic Monkeys cover)
8. Money on My Mind
9. Lay Me Down
10. La La La
11. Latch
12. Stay With Me


Billboard's Bonnaroo 2014 Video