A heartfelt Smith is the real deal
City Winery, Boston, May 8, 2023
Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
She was solo, playing before maybe 75 people. The song started quietly before Smith quickly turned it up to 11 with her once again incredibly powerful vocal delivery. She infused intensity, emotion and a having lived there ethos into each and every song.
Smith may be marketed as a country artist, but that wouldn't be exactly accurate. Yes, there were sporadic country elements, but she is more squarely in the rock and pop world. Maybe that's why folks like John Legend and Miley Cyrus (she recorded "High") have recorded her songs.
There was a lot to like about Smith in addition to her dominating vocals. There was no band on The Great Pretender Tour. All eyes were on Smith whether playing acoustic or electric guitar or keyboards. What was particularly refreshing was that the setting in a small, intimate format led Smith to do a good amount of talking. Only she didn't assume the kumbaya mantel.
Smith was brutally (and refreshingly) honest in talking about her life and career. She talked (and sang) about the difficulty of trying to make it in Nashville in "This Town Is Killing Me," which she said, in reality, opened doors for her. It's a story of resilience in the face of rejection after rejection from the country record labels.
But she was never more honest than in her prelude to "Alaska." She recounted moving back to Minnesota from Nashville with her family in 2020. "At first, it was so much fun. We were making sourdough (bread) every day," she joked, referring to a COVID past time of many. "Time marched on. Minnesota became a very lonely place. I missed my community...then winter came. In all seriousness, my life got really cold."
TMI? Maybe, but this was no therapy session either for Smith or her fans. Her delivery of "Alaska" was heartfelt and emotional. You felt for her.
Midway through the 80-minute show, Smith received help from opening act Alex Hall on "I Can't" and "Mississippi," a nice change of pace because Hall was no second fiddle on vocals.
One of Smith's best songs – "The Great Pretender" - came near the end. Smith introduced the song, saying, "I was always the happy kid."Instead of being all about her, Smith indicated she was no different from everyone out there as "all of us are carrying some sort of pain."
With Smith serving up lines like "I'm living in a house of cards about to fall/But I make them believe that I've never been better/Oh, I am the great pretender," the truth is that it's awfully hard to call Smith anything but genuine and sincere in a night filled with that.
Smith may call this The Great Pretender Tour. But from the opening "High" to the closing song, "Contact High," Smith was the real deal.
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