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Sam Smith: Tiny Desk Concert

What you've got here is a perfect 20-minute distillation of The Sam Smith Experience: The Grammy-winning 2014 ballad that kicked off the singer's career ("Stay With Me"), a sleek dance-pop banger ("How Do You Sleep") and a chart-topping dollop of debauched hedonism ("Unholy") bundled together with "Lay Me Down," in which Smith performed a gorgeous duet with LaDonna Harley-Peters. From the stately to the louche and bawdy — Smith even introduced "Unholy" with a perfect summation of their recent artistic direction: "Let's get saucy!" — it's all here.

Performing with an 11-person choir and two instrumentalists — sadly, Kim Petras wasn't there to emerge from between Smith's legs as if she were being birthed — Smith brought an overflowing bag of tricks to the proceedings. But what really shone through was a sense of movement: Each song swayed and played effervescently, centering Smith while also elevating every other magnificent voice in support. This set may not serve as anyone's introduction to the music of Sam Smith, but it's still a hell of a gateway — and a joy to behold.

SET LIST

  • "Stay With Me"
  • "How Do You Sleep"
  • "Lay Me Down (feat. LaDonna Harley-Peters)"
  • "Unholy"


MUSICIANS

  • Sam Smith: vocals
  • Ruth O'Mahony Brady: piano, effects
  • Ben Totten: guitar
  • LaDonna Harley-Peters: vocals
  • Patrick Linton: choir
  • Lucita Jules: choir
  • Megan Thomaston: choir
  • Brandon Payne: choir
  • Christian King: choir
  • Troi Lauren: choir
  • Roy Dyshon Warren: choir
  • Carmen Kirvy: choir
  • Shalisha Smith: choir
  • Safa Alston: choir
  • Ant Clemons: choir conductor


TINY DESK TEAM

  • Producer: Bobby Carter
  • Director/Editor: Joshua Bryant
  • Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin
  • Creative Director: Bob Boilen
  • Videographers: Joshua Bryant, Kara Frame, Sofia Seidel, Catie Dull
  • Audio Assistant: Hannah Gluvna
  • Production Assistant: Ashley Pointer
  • Photographer: Michael Zamora
  • Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Maia Stern, Hazel Cills
  • VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
  • Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)