Sam Smith with Beth Ditto at Rogers Arena, 9/10/18
Sam Smith and guest Beth Ditto brought their powerhouse voices to Rogers Arena last night (Sept. 10). Despite their differing styles, Smith and Ditto proved to be a winning combination.
Ditto and her band came out swinging with hard blues rock and glimmers of pop stardom. She was bubbly and chatty, but she was not afraid to touch on politics with “Standing in the Way of Control.” It was a protest song against President George W. Bush she wrote with her former band the Gossip.
“I’m 37 now. That was 13 years ago, and it’s even more relevant now! What the fuck!?” she exclaimed, astonished.
When Smith took the stage, he acknowledged that his songs were depressing. But he vowed to send fans home happy, and he did. “Sing it to your ex!” he said encouragingly on “Too Good at Goodbyes.” Such fuck-yous to past lovers became celebrations of being single, too. He also encouraged fans to pretend Rogers was “the best gay club in the world” before uncorking “Promises,” his collaboration with Calvin Harris. The club vibe also came during “Omen,” a Disclosure song on which Smith guested. “Restart” featured a keytar, so as a matter of natural law, the song was fun.
Smith’s four backup singers got much love from Smith’s fans, too. Each got their own part on “Baby, You Make Me Crazy.” They also shone particularly bright on the doo-wop number “One Last Song.”
Still, some of Smith’s his best moments included the thunderous “Like I Can.” A long piano instrumental introduced “Writing’s on the Wall,” his theme for the James Bond film Spectre.
“How fucking dramatic was that?” Smith asked afterwards from atop a mechanical stage riser.
Smith looked and sounded best when he sang from a stool, accompanied only by piano and a spotlight. Yet even during such quieter moments, like “Lay Me Down,” fans could not stop cheering, whistling, or hollering “I love you!”
The only problem with the show was the stage set-up. The artists performed along a narrow triangular runway. It extended towards, but not to, the middle of the arena. An isosceles pyramid approximately 20-feet-tall stood at the base of the stage. The design looked sleek and simplistic, but entire sections of fans had no choice but to look at the performers’ backs. Or those fans could look at the video screens high above their heads.
Most fans had a better view of Smith during his first encore, though. The pyramid’s sides spread like wings. He ascended spiral stairs and performed “Palace.” He then climbed back down and ended the night with “Stay with Me,” which the entire arena sang along with, and the arresting “Pray.”