By: Emil Jraissati
For their final stop in the U.S., Sam Smith presented Gloria the tour in Houston, Texas, on Friday, September 9th. A celebration of self-love and queerness, this show brought multiple layers of vocal performance, design, and dance to center stage for everyone to look at.
To get the night started, Jessie Reyez took the stage with a fiery set that pumped up the crowd (maybe a little too much – one audience member tried to climb over the barricade). Her cut-off tank top, ripped denim shorts, and long wavy hair matched the rawness of her voice and, in a way, complemented the sophistication of the main act that followed.
A spotlight appeared on a person with a sheer gold cape who slowly crossed the stage, examining a giant sculpture covered by a piece of cloth. With a swift pull, the cloth was whisked away to reveal a body that spanned the entire length of the stage, lying in the fetal position. After disappearing into the shadows behind the figure, rows of glimmering golden lights engulfed the stage, and from a platform above, Sam Smith stood with his head bowed. The backup singers welcomed the audience, and the show began with their classic hit, Stay With Me.
As is the new trend with concerts, the show was split into three acts: Love, Beauty, and Sex. Smith made their way downstage to greet the audience with open arms and an open heart. This first act was an opportunity to draw the crowd in with their well-known and well-loved songs, such as I’m Not The Only One and Like I Can. It became a sing-along, and the arena filled with voices in unison.
Act II: Beauty was a rollercoaster of sweet ballads and club anthems. How Do You Sleep? and Dancing With A Stranger had the audience jumping up and down, and after disappearing and returning in a floor-length floral gown made by Christian Cowan, Smith slowed the tempo down with Kissing You. Following this serenade, Smith’s backup singers joined them on stage for a couple of duets, Lay Me Down and Love Goes, the latter of which was accompanied by six dancers in head-to-toe bedazzled bodysuits. The song ends with one dancer left on stage, lying face down on the shoulder of the large sculpture.
Abruptly, the words “Gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme” begin to play as the dancer thrusts his hips up and down into the figure. Almost immediately, the other dancers appear, all of whom are twerking across the stage (including Jessie Reyez who features on the song). The audience burst out into cheers, and the show was back in club mode. This act was full of choreography, and while at times it felt celebratory, it mostly appeared clumsy. During I’m Not Here to Make Friends, the dancers made out with each other, further emphasizing the unabashed queerness that is at the heart of this production.
I almost forgot there was a third act because the second one took up most of the night, but after a video interlude, Smith ascended the stairs from beneath the stage wearing a semi-transparent veil and thigh-high boots as the choral background voices echoed throughout the arena. Gloria brought things back down gently, with the crowd taking in the beautiful vocal arrangement. Smith covered Madonna’s Human Nature and turned the outro into a screamo-rock song that somehow transitioned into the Grammy-award winning song, Unholy. While Kim Petras was not there to accompany Sam Smith on stage, she had a video cameo that was met with loud cheers from the audience. All of this is happening while Smith prances around the stage in their final look – a black corset with intricate appliques, a black thong, black leather platform boots, and contrasting red and black gloves.
And with that, the night was over. Sam Smith’s return to the stage was nothing short of charismatic and joyous, and Gloria the tour is a spectacle of vocal prowess and self-expression. After a great end to the U.S. leg of the tour, Smith heads to Mexico and then onto Asia and Australia for what is sure to be a spectacular run.