Sam Smith Mesmerizes at ACL Live

On the eve of the Austin City Limits music festival, hundreds of lucky, awe-struck fans spilled into The Moody Theater for the ACL Live/KLRU taping of Sam Smith. The hypnotizing singer has gone from unknown to superstar in a year, with his debut album In The Lonely Hour entering at #2 in the U.S thanks to hits like “Latch” and the tearjerker, “Stay With Me.”

It’s safe to say Sam Smith will be playing arenas for years to come, so having the opportunity to see him play the intimate Moody Theater made the occasion that much more special. The entire audience seemed to acknowledge this as they watched on, silent and transfixed. This was a rare occasion in today’s world where what was happening on people’s phones wasn’t more interesting than what was happening in real time.

Smith was personable with the audience and endearing, remarking on how his English skin couldn’t handle the Texas heat and admitting that he’s never been in a relationship. “You don’t have to aww, you don’t have to aww”, he urged in vein as everyone awed anyway.

Playing hits like “Leave Your Lover”, “I’m Not The Only One” and “Money On My Mind”, Smith sang effortlessly. His raw talent is only emphasized when witnessed live. He also performed the popular cover of Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know”, one of the many female vocalists he listened to while growing up.

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It wasn’t long ago that Sam Smith was cleaning toilets rather than performing sold out shows at some of the biggest stages around the world. Just a couple years ago, Smith was struggling to find his voice as a writer. “I thought I had to be like Lady Gaga,” he told the audience. Then one day he decided to take a step back and let his voice speak. The result, he revealed, was “Lay Me Down” as he launched into the song with graceful ease. A song that now takes on new weight knowing it was the turning point in Smith’s musical trajectory.

Before closing the night the singer confessed, “lot’s of people say In The Lonely Hour is a sad record but I like to think of it as a bold record”. Smith drove the point home with encore songs “Latch” and “Make It To Me”, a track that he wanted to “sound like a massive mating call”. Of course he saved his biggest hit “Stay With Me”, for very last. Everyone in the room was swaying, singing and cheering for Smith, for the night, for the music.

As the lights turned on, the crowd dispersed from the Moody Theater basking in Sam Smith’s glow, not yet ready for the moment to become a memory.

Photos by Scott Newton

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