By Ed Power
Sam Smith, Electric Picnic Main Stage, Saturday
Sam Smith was a skittish unknown when he played Electric Picnic in 2013.
Returning to the festival as Saturday headliner, all was changed utterly for the UK singer with the expressive falsetto and a satchel heaving with yearning love ballads.
Propelled by hits such as Money On My Mind and Stay With Me, his debut album has sold an astonishing 8.5 million worldwide, making Smith one of the few genuine superstars in modern pop.
As Smith stared out at perhaps the largest crowd of the weekend thus far, he good humouredly referenced the desultory attendance that had turned out to see him in a tent at Stradbally two years ago.
That was before he became the go-to purveyor of glossily packaged melancholy – a formula riven with contradictions which Smith renders plausible through the sheer reach of his voice.
He has racked enough smash singles to make his Picnic performance feel like a victory lap.
Stylishly scruffy with his stubble and black suit, Smith and his spirited, soulful band stepped rhapsodically through I'm Not The Only One, Together and Stay With Me – broken hearted dirges that have conveyed this previously shy and uncertain crooner to the first rank of international stardom.
The only flub, arguably, was a tilt at Amy Winehouse's Tears Dry On Their Own – a reading that lacked the devastating honesty of the original.
Otherwise, this was an exultant return by a singer clearly achieving more than he ever imagined possible.