No matter how hard he tried, Sam Smith couldn’t wipe the grin off his face.
Saturday night’s show at Time Warner Cable Arena marked the first full show of Smith’s North American tour after a severe storm curtailed his performance in Louisville, and it was his eighth concert following his recovery from vocal cord surgery in May.
It was also the first time Gavin James opened for Smith. The Irish musician played for about 30 minutes, getting the crowd to pick up the “whoa-oh-oh” melody during “Coming Home” and dusting off one of his old songs, “Carolina,” especially for Charlotte.
Then, the crowd caught a glimpse of Smith behind a sheer curtain, wearing all black and his signature cross earrings. He grinned as the curtain dropped for his opening song, an echoic version of “Life Support,” and didn’t stop grinning the whole show. The hour and a half performance mostly featured songs from his debut album, “In the Lonely Hour.”
“Can I just say I’m so shocked that one person even knows me in this entire place?” he said. After singing “I’m Not the Only One,” he laughed: “I still can’t get over how big this room is.” And even after winning four Grammys in February, it seemed like he really couldn’t.
The young singer is 23, but millennials and baby boomers alike danced to “Restart” when Smith and his three backup singers coached the crowd through a simple step routine. Each backup singer had a solo in Smith’s mash-up of Amy Winehouse’s “Tears Dry On Their Own” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” giving Smith’s voice a moment of rest before the more intimate part of his show.
Smith prefaced “Not In That Way” with an explanation. “I want to take this time to talk a bit about the main reason I wrote this record,” he said. “I completely fell in love with a guy... he didn’t love me back, and it was f****** depressing. But the good thing is that I’m over him.”
Smith spent most of the night near the edges of the stage, slowly making his way from one corner to another while singing to the crowd. Even during his sadder songs, the sight of his fans singing along made him smile.
“I wanted to end... on a happier note because, believe it or not, I am a happy person. I really hope to fall in love soon so I can write some happier songs,” he said to the arena, starry with cellphone lights.
Smith finished the show with the ballad “Stay With Me,” a grin, and a promise: “I’ll see you for round two, Charlotte.”
Capwell: 704-358-6194; Twitter: @jessicacapwell