I don’t normally care for “pop” music, but I have a confession to make. I love Sam Smith!
My first exposure to Sam Smith was when he was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live in March of 2014. He performed “Stay With Me”, complete with a choir and full band with a string section backing him. The second song he performed was “Lay Me Down”, with just a piano and cello accompanying him. I immediately fell in love with his voice, and bought tickets to see him in concert at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia in January of 2015.
Fast forward 3 years, and Smith released his second album. While I’m not as big of a fan of the songs on the second album as his first, I still love Smith’s voice. When tickets went on sale for his “The Thrill Of It All Tour”, I checked on prices and decided to pass. Unfortunately (or fortunately for me), I think a lot of other people passed to, because a Groupon deal appeared. Lower level tickets secured for a pretty low all-in price – yes please!
Even with the cheap tickets, I wasn’t sure how Smith was going to do in a large arena like the Wells Fargo Center. Over the last month or so, I’ve seen artists like Justin Timberlake, U2, and Depeche Mode play the same venue. Those artists have a huge catalog of music and an elaborate stage show with big screens, dancers, and special effects. You can read more about another solo artist that recently played the Wells Fargo Center – Justin Timberlake – here:
How did Smith do? Keep reading to find out!
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The Wells Fargo Center is home to Philadelphia’s indoor sports teams like the Flyers, the 76er’s, and the Soul. It also hosts many concerts throughout the year. If a band is doing an “arena tour” and coming to the Philadelphia area, the Wells Fargo Center is where they will play.
The Wells Fargo Center was built in 1996 to replace The Spectrum, which was where the Flyers and 76er’s originally played. As with many arenas, the naming rights have been bought and sold throughout the years. It started out as the Core States Center, changed to the First Union Center in 1998, changed again to the Wachovia Center in 2003, and finally the Wells Fargo Center in 2013.
The Wells Fargo Center holds around 20,000 for basketball and hockey games. For concerts, depending on the configuration, it can hold an additional thousand or so. The typical set up for a concert has the stage set on the floor in one end of the arena, and either standing general admission or temporary seating on the floor.
Tip #1: As the configuration can change depending on the stage set up of the show, be sure to check on how your specific show will be set up before buying tickets. As an example, we saw U2 about a month ago. The set up featured a long screen running down the center of the floor section. For that show, optimum seats would have been on the sides toward the back so you could see the full screen as well as the main stage.
The first concert was held at the arena on August 13, 1996. It was a private concert by Ray Charles, with a crowd of around 12,000. Each person in attendance was given a commemorative key showing that they helped “open” the center. The first public concert held there was Oasis on September 2nd of the same year.
Since its opening, the arena has been home to a number of famous (and infamous) shows. You’ll find banners hanging from the rafters acknowledging Billy Joel’s 48 Philadelphia sell outs, Bruce Springsteen’s 56 Philadelphia sell outs, and Pearl Jam’s “10 show” (which I was lucky enough to attend). On December 6, 2002, Guns N Roses was scheduled to visit the arena on their Chinese Democracy Tour. After the openers played, Guns N Roses never appeared, which led to a riot inside the arena that caused $30-40K worth of damage.
Tip #2: Like many venues, security getting into the Wells Fargo Center has increased over the years. Note that the lines to get through security can be quite long. Give yourself ample time to get in and get seated. Ladies – do yourself a favor and don’t take in a handbag unless absolutely necessary. It just slows down the line.
Tip #3: If you are looking to hang out before the show, just walk over to XFINITY Live. There are several places to grab food and drinks, including Victory Beer Hall and PBR Philly. There are great little areas to sit outside (including several fire pits if the weather is chilly), play corn hole, or just hang out with friends.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Cam (Camaron Marvel Ochs) is a country music singer and songwriter. She was born in Huntington Beach, California and grew up in Lafayette, California in the San Francisco Bay area. Cam sang in various choral groups throughout high school and college. However, she majored in psychology at the University of California.
After college, she performed from time to time, but mostly worked in research labs. During this time, she remained conflicted about her career choice. One of the college professors she worked with asked her one day, “Just picture yourself at 80 years old. Looking back at your life, what would you regret not doing: music or psychology?”
That talk inspired Cam to pursue her music. In 2010, she released her debut studio album – Heartforward – under the name Camaron Ochs. The album was made up of contemporary pop songs that Cam wrote based on experiences she had a few years before in Nepal.
Cam decided to move to Los Angeles and began collaborating with Tyler Johnson. Her recordings were heard by Tim McGraw’s manager, which led to her songs being recorded by other artists including Maggie Rose and Miley Cyrus. Cam decided to move to Nashville. She started a Kickstarter campaign in 2013, to produce 10 songs with Johnson.
Cam released the single “Down This Road” in 2013. Through a photo posted on Instagram, a local radio director discovered the song and started playing it. The radio play eventually led to her signing a record deal with Sony Music Entertainment’s country division.
Cam’s first single on the label was “My Mistake” in 2015. Later in 2015, she released her debut EP – Welcome to Cam Country. While “My Mistake” never got much attention, her next single – “Burning House” – had a lot of commercial success and was nominated for a Grammy in 2016. Cam released her debut album on Sony – Untamed – at the end of 2015. It debuted at number two on the Top Country Albums chart, and was the highest-selling debut country studio album of 2015.
Cam’s latest single – “Diane” was released in October of 2017.
Cam took the stage in a beautiful blue glittery gown right at 8 p.m. She started her set with the song “Diane”. Her voice suits the country music she sings beautifully. I’m not a big fan of country music, but I was immediately impressed with Cam’s vocals.
After telling the crowd that the next song was a song she wrote about an a**hole that she dated, Cam went into “Mayday”.
When you are an opening act, a lot of people are typically not familiar with your music, so drawing the crowd in is important. Cam did a really good job of that, by interacting a lot with the crowd. She introduced each song and explained why she wrote it, which I think helps the crowd relate to the music. For example, she talked about how she had some success with her music a few years ago, but realized that money doesn’t solve the problem of making you happy, as an introduction to her song “The Road to Happiness”.
Cam also paid homage to the female country singers before her, and described how they had set the foundation for what she was doing today. She followed that up with a cover of Patsy Cline’s “Sweet Dreams”.
Cam wrapped up her set with “Burning Houses”. Although I wasn’t familiar with it, a good portion of the crowd was and sang along.
Cam is opening for Sam Smith throughout his North America tour. She’ll be heading to Europe for a few shows in September. You can find information on her music, as well as her tour dates, on her website at www.camcountry.com.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Samuel Frederick Smith (Sam Smith) was born in London. When he was younger, Smith spent time in jazz bands and musical theater.
Smith’s big break came when he was featured on the song “Latch” by Disclosure in 2012. He was also featured on Naughty Boy’s single “La La La” in May of 2013. Later that year, Smith released his first EP – Nirvana.
Smith released his debut album – In The Lonely Hour – in May of 2014. He described the album as being all about unrequited love, because he had never been loved back by any of his love interests. The album was a huge success. It was the second biggest selling album of 2014 in the U.S., behind Taylor Swift’s 1989.
In 2015, Smith and Tom Petty negotiated an out-of-court settlement regarding Smith’s song “Stay With Me”. Petty had noted similarities between the song and his 1989 hit “I Won’t Back Down”. The settlement resulted in Petty and co-composer Jeff Lynne receiving 12.5% of the royalties from “Stay With Me”, and the names of Petty and Lynne joined James John Napier in the ASCAP song credit.
Smith rounded out his success with his debut album by receiving four Grammy Awards for Best New Artist, Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Pop Vocal Album.
After his initial success, Smith went back into the studio to begin working on his follow-up album. The Thrill Of It All was finally released in 2017. While the album debuted at number one on both the UK Albums Chart and the US Billboard 200, Smith has not been able to replicate the commercial success of his first album.
Smith took the stage at 9 p.m. He started the show sitting in a chair, which lifted up from below the stage. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve heard as many screaming girls (and guys) at a concert as I have when Smith took the stage.
Smith started off his set with “Burning”, and then went into “One Last Song”, which had a Motown sound to it.
Smith addressed the Philadelphia crowd by saying it had been 2 or 3 years since he had been in town, and he thanked his fans for sticking around. He talked about how he had been touring in Europe, and it had been a beautiful experience for him. Smith also joked about the fact that the shows he played so far had been a relief as well. He said that he was at home and thinking about how depressing his music is, and he was worried people would leave his shows feeling depressed. Smith said that hadn’t been the case, and that people were leaving the shows happy. That was definitely the case for the fans around me.
While Smith’s stage set up was not quite as elaborate as some other artists that are currently doing arena tours, I thought it complemented his music well. Sometimes it’s nice to just have the big screens show the artist, so those people further back can get some closer views.
Smith also did a good job of playing a good mix of music. Just when things would slow down with something like an acoustic version of “Latch”, they would pick back up with a funky version of “Money On My Mind”.
One of the highlights of the show were Smith’s back-up singers. All four were quite talented. They were highlighted on “Baby, You Make Me Crazy”, when they took over lead vocals, allowing Smith time to go off stage and change clothes. One of them was also highlighted on the first song after the encore break – “Palace” – when she sang the song as a duet with Smith.
Smith wrapped up the show with his first big hit – “Stay With Me” – followed by his current single – “Pray”. While I definitely like Smith in a smaller and more intimate venue that highlights his voice, he did a good job of putting on an arena show. I think a lot of that was due to his fans, who were singing along to every song and having a great time. Smith has a special voice, and I hope my guilty pop music pleasure will be around for a long time!
Smith is on the road all summer playing arenas throughout North America. In October, he’ll hit the Asia. You can see where Smith will be next on his website at www.samsmithworld.com.
Set List (click on any link to purchase and download the song directly from Amazon): Burning, One Last Song, Lay Me Down, His Eye Is On The Sparrow (Charles Hutchinson Gabriel cover), Omen (Disclosure cover), Nirvana/I’ve Told You Now, Writing’s On The Wall, Latch (Disclosure cover), Money On My Mind, Like I Can, Restart, Baby, You Make Me Crazy, Say It First, One Day At A Time, Midnight Train, HIM, Too Good At Goodbyes Encore: Palace, Stay With Me, Pray
Are you a Sam Smith fan? Have you seen his “The Thrill Of It All” Tour? Let us know what you think by commenting below or e-mailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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