SAM SMITH, Shepherd’s Bush Empire – Evening Standard, 25 Feb 2014

The only surprise about Sam Smith’s first major London headline show, in the week his new single went to number one and just after the Brits anointed him pop’s next big thing, was that his microphone didn’t turn to gold when he touched it.

The young soul man from Cambridgeshire has been a sure thing ever since he hit the charts as the voice of Disclosure’s dance favourite Latch in late 2012. After a number one singing Naughty Boy’s La La La last year, when the Brits named him their Critics’ Choice and the BBC gave him their Sound of 2014 prize, it already felt like he couldn’t fail.

But now the guest spots are behind him and he has to stand alone ahead of a debut album in May, and it turns out he isn’t quite the instant superstar everybody says he is. Here at least, his stage presence amounted to knock-kneed sheepishness, a daring hairdo and some big shoes providing all the personality.

He’s a sweetheart, though, telling the top tier he’d left them chocolates because he’d been up there once in Lily Allen’s audience and “it’s a bit of a shit seat”. The crowd wanted him to win, screaming at everything. He removed his in-ear monitor to hear the adoration.

And what a voice. You won’t be singing Smith’s singles, Nirvana or Money On My Mind at karaoke any time soon, such is the uniqueness of his vertiginous falsetto. A few too many ballads showed it off extensively, while the lightweight funk of his session band suggested that his dancey early stuff was a false start and he’s going to be much more middle of the road.

The gospel finale of Stay With Me sounded like his next number one. Hopefully a long career can still hold a few musical shocks.

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