Live Review: Sam Smith @ AEC Arena, Adelaide

29 October 2023 | 8:54 am | Melissa Griffin

Smith’s 'GLORIA' tour creates a joyous space for queer love and body positivity.

Sam Smith @ Adelaide Entertainment Centre

Sam Smith @ Adelaide Entertainment Centre (Credit: Justin White)

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“Welcome, welcome, welcome every single one of you.” Red devil horns dot the packed arena, looking on at Sam Smith like cartoonish evil eyes in the darkened room. Smith faces them down in sparkly golden platform heels, knowing full well that everyone in this room is more than grateful to be sharing the same space as the global popstar, “You’re lucky as fuck.”

Sam Smith officially kicked off the final run of GLORIA the tour at Adelaide/Kaurna Land’s AEC Arena last night. Australia and New Zealand will see the final six shows of the tour for 2023 over the next two weeks.

The crowd gets an early taste of what to expect with the Welcome to Country, where the speaker asks for a moment of silence for the lost members of the LGBTQIA+ community. But the sombre moment soon turns into a burlesque strip tease as the speaker, who’s accompanied by a two-metre plush Rainbow Serpent, strips off to reveal a red and black leotard with a glittering gold outline of Australia positioned front and centre – reminding everyone in attendance that tonight will be all about joy.

Opening the musical proceedings for the night is Australian artist Meg Mac, who proves to be a perfect vocal warm-up. With a simple three-membered band (including Mac’s little sister Hannah McInerney on backing vocals), Mac provides a soulful performance for the eager early crowd including hits Low Blows and Never Be.

Once the lights dim for the main event, a woman in gold appears looking as resplendent and powerful as the statue of the goddess Aphrodite that lays across the entire length of the stage. When Smith pops up in the middle of the stage in a golden corset and matching pants, the audience is more than ready. Opening with a familiar trio of favourites, Smith receives a few thousand lending hands on the chorus of Stay With Me, I’m Not The Only One and Like I Can. With a bow and a shoulder shimmy, the night starts off strong.

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Smith takes the time to welcome the audience and promises everyone on stage will be giving it their all for the final seven shows of the GLORIA tour for 2023. The Grammy Award-winning artist sets the intention for the night, “This show is about one thing and one thing only. Tonight is about freedom,” before a strong rendition of 2017’s Too Good At Goodbyes.

The night’s performance is separated into three acts. Act I (Love) sees Smith return to the stage in a flowing white frilly shirt for the hopeful Perfect. A faux breeze ruffles Smith’s sleeves and the singer appears like a romantic heroine straight out of a period film with their thick beard and curled moustache (in gold platforms of course). Also featured in Act I, a track that hits back at toxic lovers How Do You Sleep? and Dancing With A Stranger, which Smith dedicates to anyone in the audience currently going through heartbreak.

Act II (Beauty) starts off with a flourish as Smith ascends a set of stairs in a white tulle ball gown and silver sequined top to deliver the piano ballad Kissing You, before letting the audience in on a sentimental story. “This part of the show is my absolute favourite part because I’ve been thinking about this moment for a very long time.” Smith alludes to the difficulties of COVID lockdowns as an artist who has been performing and singing on stage since they were eight years old. “I realised the reason that I do this is because…I get to spend my days with my friends…and I missed them more than anything else over those years.” The singer introduces one of their friends, vocalist LaDonna, as the crowd lights up for the heart-wrenching Lay Me Down. Love Goes sees the singer joined on stage by a glittering entourage of dancers and another friend, Patrick, who has been singing with the star for a decade.

A solo dancer is left on stage, caressing the dormant form of Aphrodite in a tender moment before the tone of the night truly changes.

The dancer begins to twerk and is quickly joined by Smith returning to the stage in a black sequined cowboy get-up for the steamy, house-infused hit Gimme. The stage is drenched in blue light for melancholy club tune Lose You, before the Calvin Harris-produced hit Promises has the arena up on its feet. It becomes clear this section of the performance is indebted to queer clubs, as Smith is draped in a fluffy, hot pink tulle coat as seen in the music video for I’m Not Here To Make Friends which samples RuPaul’s famous self-love declaration. Smith then pulls out some voguing dance moves and powers through Disclosure hit Latch, before a rainbow-lit dance break to Donna Summer’s I Feel Love, which sees the singer encircled by dancers as they strip off their shirt and revel in the sweaty dance tune.

A quick breather brings us to the final and most daring act of the night – Act III (Sex). Smith ascends from the depths of the stage one final time to a Songs of Praise-like chorus, draped in a white veil and crowned with gold-plated barbwire. Light is cast on the first few rows of worshippers at the alter of Smith’s Gloria, who may be left a little stunned as the veil comes off and the fish nets come out.

The worshippers are then welcomed to Smith’s “gay cabaret” as their devilish side is revealed for the history-making hit and performance closer Unholy.

As a non-binary artist who promotes body positivity, Sam Smith has faced a relentless slew of online vitriol throughout their career, simply for existing. Recent collaborator and friend of the artist Charlie XCX took to social media only a couple of weeks ago to call out the “disheartening” amount of hateful online comments she had noticed in the lead up to the release of their collaborative single In The City.

Despite this and perhaps even in spite of this, Smith’s GLORIA tour creates a joyous space for queer love and body positivity. Sam Smith has one of those voices that just simply can’t be ignored, and if the scale of this worldwide tour is anything to go by, it never will be.