It was Sam Smith’s angelic vocals on “Stay With Me” that captured the world in 2014, a launching point for an illustrious career full of smash hits, genre-crossing collaborations, and world tours. So it was only fitting that the same song opened Gloria: The Tour, which stopped in Phoenix over the weekend and captured Smith’s catalog highlights and unapologetic confidence.
Jessie Reyez, who’s featured on Smith’s Gloria, opened the show with don’t-fuck-with-me energy and some selections from last year’s YESSIE. Front row fans screamed their adoration, and suddenly a bra that read “To: Mommy” launched through the air toward the stage — Reyez proudly hung it from her mic stand. She graciously thanked everyone who was “dragged here early” and shouted out Sam Smith and their “incredible” team for bringing her on the road.
It really is a big deal to be the opener on Smith’s first tour in five years, especially one that has this much buzz. After a show stopping Grammys performance of “Unholy” with Kim Petras, Smith is going even bigger on Gloria: The Tour with a three-part saga of Love, Beauty, and Sex that showcases them as a modern queer icon.
Part I, Love, saw Smith’s ballads from In the Lonely Hour, reminding anyone who’s forgotten in recent years they’re still a vocal powerhouse. Dressed in a crisp button-down and tie that held up an intricate gold and beaded corset, Smith was radiant — but this look was only the beginning. Part II celebrated Beauty, and Smith emerged in a pale pink and lavender ombre gown covered in delicate flowers. “They may look like little flowers,” they said about the dress, “but it’s heavy.” Thankfully they got a reprieve, changing into a shirt and pants for “Lose You” and “Promises” and later a custom Phoenix Suns jersey (that they later stripped and threw into the crowd) for “Latch.”
This show is about freedom: freedom to wear what you want, create the art you want, and express yourself how you want. Smith has made it clear at every stop on this tour, but it’s the back half of the show that really brings it home with dance and skin and light and color, a gay bar brought to life on stage. (We even got a cover of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love.”) The troupe of dancers twerked atop the golden Aphrodite statue. Various pairs of them were kissing passionately. And Smith’s penultimate look for covering Madonna’s “Human Nature” was thigh-high heeled boots, fishnets, and a thong.
Fans’ commemorative devil horn headbands flashed around the arena, casting the crowd in a red glow: the exact ambiance needed for “Unholy” to close out the show. Smith added a top hat with devil horns and a black corset to their ensemble, and flames burst from the golden statue on stage as they sang. And though the televised performance of the song was criticized for appearing like a “Satanic ritual,” Sunday’s version was the most joyful hellscape you’ve ever seen.
Check out all the photos!
Story and photos by Taylor Knauf