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Sam Smith Performs Sold-Out Show at New York’s Apollo Theater, Brings Out Mary J. Blige as Surprise Guest

Sam Smith Mary J. Blige
Theo Wargo, Getty Images

While May 26 marked the official release of Sam Smith’s debut album, ‘In the Lonely Hour,’ in the U.K., Tuesday night (June 17) served as the U.S. debut of the Capitol Records’ singer-songwriter’s project. Ready to celebrate his crossover success, the British-born artist hit one of America’s music-making headquarters to kick off his five-month tour, bringing hundreds of fans together at the Apollo Theater in New York’s famed Harlem neighborhood.

Hours before the 22-year-old crooner stepped foot onstage in a couture white blazer accented with a black collar, matching black slacks and hard-bottom shoes, more than one thousand soul-loving fanatics lined up along 125th Street, circling the Apollo’s perpendicular Fredrick Douglass Boulevard block. With a rumored sold-out show (it apparently took just two minutes for all tickets to sell), anxious R&B heads waited for the doors of the 101-year-old building to open for an intimate evening with the music’s industry’s newest star.

As the lights to the three-level theater dimmed, the building filled with echoing screams as Smith’s band and back-up singers sashayed onto the stage. The next thing people saw were blue and white lights illuminating the stage as a posh Sam Smith walked towards center stage. The first words out of his mouth: “Oh baby, oh baby, oh we both know the truth.” A collective 1,500 people began to roar as the budding musician bellowed his live rendition of ‘Nirvana,’ a single from his similarly-titled EP.

Before going into his third song of the night, ‘Leave Your Lover,’ Smith addressed the crowd, reminiscing on memories from his childhood. “As a kid, all I did was listen to American soul singers,” said Smith. “Tonight is a very special night because my album is officially out in America.”

As the singer’s full band, which includes three violins, a cello, two electric guitars, drums and a keyboard, began to softly play the heartbreaking ballad, Smith joined in with the lyrics while the Apollo’s packed house appointed themselves as his back-up singers. In the middle of the song, Smith started to cry, turning away from the crowd to wipe a tear off his face.

Throughout the entirety of the show, the British vocalist proved he doesn’t need an extravagant stage set up or back-up dancers to wow the audience because his raw talent takes care of absolutely everything. With a very Adele-esque approach, Smith conversed with the audience between songs, sharing music memories and telling stories about those he’s loved and those who didn’t love him back. But the highlight was his performance during ‘Lay Me Down,’ ‘Money On My Mind’ and ‘Good Thing,’ as he brought those in the theater to their feet.

Sounding like the night was coming to a close, the crowd stood up with continuous applause in an effort to beg Sam to stay for just one more song. But as all good things must come to an end, Smith bid his fans farewell. Fortunately, he wasn’t planning on leaving without giving fans just a little more.

Smith returned to the stage after receiving a standing ovation to perform ‘Make It to Me.’ For his final performance of the night, the artist found a way to make the crowd jump to their feet by uttering his baritone and high-pitched vocals for ‘Stay With Me,’ but not before surprising everyone with a guest appearance from the one and only Mary J. Blige.

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