Sam Smith dazzled the audience in attendance at their “Gloria” tour’s Manila stop at the SM Mall of Asia Arena on October 21.

Fans observed how the local concert did not sell out, but neither did Smith — as secure in themselves as ever.

As for those who were there, anyone can attest to how the crowd was seated in anticipation of the show that defines the Grammy-winning singer’s career thus far.

Metamorphosis of love and beauty

Smith broke out with hit after hit, one wardrobe change to another throughout the nearly two-hour affair. They generally demonstrated artistic growth with each passing studio album, from the more tame tracks of In The Lonely Hour and The Thrill Of It All, to the more liberated themes of Love Goes, and finally, the unapologetically authentic Gloria.

It was a masterclass in self-expression, proving that music goes beyond churning out charttoppers. Smith was in no shortage of bangers that night, but one could see how different their glow was with their more recent releases. The likes of “Stay With Me” and “I’m Not The Only One” were crowd pleasers with which the performer was more than happy to grace their Filipino fans with. However, they felt, for lack of a better word, restricted in their very stage.

Sam Smith

Smith: Courtesy of @samsmith

Fortunately, the tonal shift in both their music and creative direction was apparent midway up to the very end. It was odd, yet it was somehow in their voluminous hot pink dress that Smith felt the least bogged down. They pranced around onstage to the likes of “I’m Not Here to Make Friends.”

With the music artist bouncing around in that seemingly cumbersome garment, it’s clear that the solution went beyond a simple outfit change. Smith needed to find themselves in their music to truly break boundaries — and that they did.

That metamorphosis can be observed in the concert’s three acts: Love, Beauty, and Sex. As their artistry grew, so did the singer’s presence. The suggestive stage and light design matched their increasingly provocative and evocative getup. Although the show started on a high, it gradually became more enjoyable as Smith’s joy was contagious.

Best of all, their performance was truly uplifting. Smith made sure to especially acknowledge guest performers. Following each collaborative performance, the singer introduced the lineup of accompanying performers to receive some warmth from the applauding crowd. What they demonstrated was the proper way to give back to the community. That is, lending them the very platform you claim to champion so they can get the flowers they have long deserved.

Sam Smith and the ‘Unholy’ Grail

Sam Smith

Smith: Courtesy of @samsmith

As a queer fan of Smith who has been there since their 2013 debut, it is remarkable to witness the artist’s evolution unfold before my eyes.

Any controversy notwithstanding, the singer has remained honest and insistent regarding who they are as an artist. The fact is all the hate has neither daunted Smith nor their truest of fans. If anything, it is a much more pleasant experience to see the singer in their full glory. To the holier-than-thou, look elsewhere. Smith and their fans have found the fated “Unholy” Grail in this one-of-a-kind show, and there’s no turning back.

As far as concerts go, “Gloria” is in the highest.