Detroit, Michigan (June 22, 2018) – Sam Smith brought his “Thrill of it all Tour” to the newly constructed Little Caesars Arena on Woodward Avenue in Detroit, MI for a sold out, all-ages show. Opening the show was California-born country singer-songwriter Cam, (full name Cameron Ochs), whose music has a slight pop feel while maintaining clear classic country influences reminiscent of Patsy Cline. Both artists are absolute powerhouses and the pairing works well, with the two of them having previously worked together after Smith was introduced to Cam through a mutual collaborator, writer-producer Tyler Johnson. The meeting resulted in the pair writing the song “Palace” together, featuring Cam on backing vocals and guitar.
Growing up in a small town outside of London and raised on theater, jazz, and choir, Sam Smith first rose to fame in late 2012 when he was featured on Disclosure‘s breakthrough single “Latch“. Even before the release of his debut album, Smith’s soulful voice rocketed him to the top of the charts with his disarmingly honest tales of heartache and love. By the time his third single, the chart-smashing “Stay With Me” became an international success in 2014, it was clear the young singer was no one-hit-wonder. His second studio album, The Thrill of It All, debuted at the top of both the UK Albums and US Billboard 200 charts last November, providing a solid base for his current North American tour.
Tonight, Cam opened the show with her bold new song “Diane“, a song she described to Rolling Stone as “[My] response to Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene.’ It’s the apology so many spouses deserve, but never get.” Two video screens flanked her on stage with the words “Cam Country” on them as she spoke to the hyped crowd promising “The best show of our life!” She followed this with “Forgetting You When I’m Alone“, a brand new song that has a classic country vibe, which will be on her next album. Noting that she really likes to sing about heartbreak, the stunning vocalist continued the theme, performing “Mayday” from her 2015 debut Untamed. The set moved ahead with another new song “Road to Happiness” and her Patsy Cline tribute “Sweet Dreams”. She ended her performance with her GRAMMY-nominated song “Burning House” which showcased her rich voice against a simple melody and quiet guitar.
After a few roadies finished setting up, the stage was bathed in a soft pink glow, and a figure seated in a simple chair rose up out of the floor, highlighted only by a single beam of light. The moment Sam Smith started to sing, the arena broke out in a loud cheer as they recognized the opening of “Burning” from his latest album The Thrill of it All. The dramatic mood was enhanced by gradually increasing light as the song progressed, showing us that Smith was dressed in a stylish pink suit, coordinating nicely with the tone of the background lighting.
Connecting with your fans can be difficult for artists performing an arena show, however, the narrow triangular shaped stage jutted out into the LCA crowd allowing a larger number of fans to have a more intimate show experience. When the song ended he exclaimed “Detroit!” to the delight of the locals before launching into “One Last Song“. Next was his top-five hit “I’m Not the Only One” from his debut album In the Lonely Hour . The entire audience joined in with the familiar tune and Smith was all smiles. When the song ended he shouted “I fucking love you Detroit!” and commented on the difference in the number of fans compared to the last time he played Detroit, at the 4500-seat Masonic Temple.
With a smile always on his face, and his charismatic radiant energy, Smith bared his soul as he belted out the tunes and asked the crowd to “Have a night of love and celebration .” During “Latch“, Smith asked the crowd to light up the arena with their cell phones creating a stunning sea of warm light throughout the venue. “Scars” was a moving and deeply personal song, offering a glimpse into Smith’s feelings about his parent’s divorce and how their love for their children helped them all to heal. Rainbow colored lights lit up the stage for the next song, “HIM“, as he told us “I wrote this song to tell anyone who is listening that love is love and I’m a proud gay man” bringing a huge cheer from the audience. He ended the set with “Too Good at Goodbyes” but quickly gave us a three-song encore including “Palace“, “Stay with Me“, and the gospel-influenced “Pray“.
Tonight’s show really celebrated life, love, and self-acceptance through music and showed how much Smith has evolved both personally and as a performer since his 2015 Masonic Temple gig. Sam Smith has a voice that never disappoints and his smile and pure joy are contagious – be sure to catch him on the remaining dates of the “Thrill of it all Tour” throughout North America, Europe, and Asia this summer!
Senior Photographer: Kelly Harmer
Journalist: Kate Sumbler