Dressed in a dark gray suit, British singing sensation Sam Smith moved woodenly and nailed the song “Latch” Thursday at the lofty Paramount Theatre, his famous collaboration with the London electronic duo Disclosure. Singing in his most raw and exciting falsetto in the chorus, he whipped around in there like he was fencing, and it was exciting to witness the vocalist reach aggressively for those notes.
Smith excels at big choruses. But hopefully he doesn’t blow out his instrument like compatriot Adele after her first big American tour. He has many more lucrative concerts ahead of him: his debut album “In the Lonely Hour” came out only in May, and went platinum already. This sold-out show was part of a victory lap, and tickets for the sold-out show eventually went for six times their face value on Craigslist.
“I’ve had such a good day today,” beamed Smith to his suddenly devoted fan base, cultivated since only 2012. “Do you know the place called Plum? It’s really good, a vegan place. I’m not vegan, but it’s really good. You need to go there.”
The concert was excellent in its way: an hour of bravura singing which became thrilling whenever Smith flew into his falsetto range (often). It also pretended to be slightly more interesting than it was, full of ponderous ballads and benign banter. The 22-year-old British singing sensation took great pains to be relatable because that’s key to his megapopularity — he’s shaped like a regular person, appreciates small things like tofu sandwiches, finds himself continually on the sidelines of love — and he won over the crowd with star power and vocal ability, two aspects they would never attain.
His rock-and-soul band was highly capable, but it was his voice in its highest register that transformed the evening, making weak songs good (“I’ve Told You Now”), fine ones great (“Leave Your Lover”) and anthems like “Latch” transcendent. Voices shouted “I love you Sam!” from the crowd of couples in their 20s and 30s (along with a few elementary school kids and their parents).
When Smith played the second best song of the night, “Money On My Mind” — musically great but thematically annoying, a negative judgment on hip-hop for being materialistic (Snoop Dogg, specifically), the same concept as Macklemore’s “Thrift Shop” and Lorde’s “Royals” — the message seemed rote and hypocritical.
Smith sang: “I got no money on my mind / I do it for the love.”
Surely money is on his mind: He’s young and rich. But his fans got it. Music brings him into such a loving emotional state that he is consumed by it, and considers everything else frivolous. It’s hard not to get caught up in his moment.
Andrew Matson is on Twitter at @andrewmatson