Sam Smith - Wolverhampton Civic Hall
When Adele released 19 back in 2008, that voice was an instant treasure but it took her second album to capture - and break - the hearts of millions of fans around the world. As assured as 21 was, I still think the songs are yet to match the voice, which is undoubtedly an exciting thing. Similarly, the London boy to Adele's London gal yang, Sam Smith has had a meteoric rise to Grammy glory off the back of just one set of songs, thanks immeasurably to the appeal of his soul boy voice. 'Stay with Me' might match 'Someone Like You' for tearjerking ease (with a little help from Tom Petty) but you get the feeling that this stage of his career is a warm-up, despite the mega-star success.
Tonight's sold-out crowd in Wolves, the second in as many nights, don't care; they realise it's going to be a looong time before he returns to the Civic in favour of anaemic mega-arenas so, even if he only has one album to play, they're going to scream and warble and cry along before Mr Smith moves on to his second chapter of conquering the global charts - hopefully with music that improves upon his debut.
I like In the Lonely Hour. I find Smith's vocal and songwriting talents impressive, I really do. I just wish there were a few more gear changes, a few more surprises to accompany the soul. Unsurprisingly after his recent plaudits, Smith is a confident showman despite his sweetly shy persona - and so, from the teased opening of 'Life Support' which is met with a crescendo of wails from an excited crowd, we're in safe hands despite the inevitable filler that comes with an hour and a half to fill on the back of just one record. The less familiar 'Together' and 'Nirvana', plus a dramatic cover of 'My Funny Valentine', may appease the diehards between album tracks but they signal a bar or bathroom break for everyone else. With so little material though, Smith is quick to dispense with some big-hitters early, including a stripped back - and quite lovely - 'Leave Your Lover' followed by a rousing sing-along of 'I'm Not the Only One'.
It's clear to see the love in the room for Smith: from the swaying moms huddled together and the wide-eyed kids intending to karaoke their best Smith on The Voice, to the couples (straight and gay) slow-dancing whilst phonecam-capturing the song that has soundtracked their breakup/makeup love stories. Current top spot single 'Lay Me Down' is a dead cert for future first dances and the piano version here is met with hushed awe; a stray ringtone going off in the back is met with eye daggers and the most dangerous of British tuts. When Smith is joined by his band on the likes of 'Like I Can', 'Restart' and 'Money On My Mind' (playfully spliced with CeCe Peniston's throwback hit 'Finally'), it all feels a little more loose and joyful and points toward a future where Smith should maybe mix the torch ballads - as heartfelt and catchy as they are - with something approaching a curveball. The slowed-down dance collabs 'La La La' and 'Latch' lack a punch in their new form.
Everyone's waiting for the big sign-off, of course, and Smith plays up to the song's already semi-classic status by revving up to it in between songs, promising his future music will be just as honest and heart-on-sleeve as the music his audience is here for tonight. 'Stay with Me' feels sincere enough when the crowd explodes into the chorus, the relatively contained Civic meaning the song is more emotive than it ever will be in a Barclaycard Arena, but once the audience have had their big heart-swell moment, they and Smith quickly scarper off and it all feels a bit deflating. But hey ho, well done to the chap for filling 80 minutes with a 60 minute album and getting to that Grammy one album ahead of Adele - now for seconds, thirds and fourths, when I think Smith will start experimenting and realise there's more to music than just wanting to making us cry. That's a big part of it, sure, but I'm eager to see what else he has up that heart-heavy sleeve.