by Chloe Cohen
No one is doing it like Samantha Bowers. Known by her stage name, Sammy Rae, she and The Friends, her band, lit up the Royale stage this past Sunday, on the last night of their “Follow Me Like The Moon” tour.
Prior to this, singer DAMOYEE and her band took the stage. She engaged the crowd remarkably well – hardly anyone was on their phone! Her jazzy, soulful tunes were similar enough to Sammy’s vibe to excite the crowd, yet unique enough to distinguish herself. She vocally scatted expertly as her fingers danced down her keyboard, evoking screams from the audience.
Beginning with her hit “The Feeling,” Sammy came onstage jumping and beaming, instantly showing her natural stage presence. Every member of the sold-out crowd was quickly captivated by her joy, screaming as though they knew her personally. She spoke with the audience like they were her best friends — everyone feeling a sense of community and joy with this woman they had just met.
Sammy sang an adorable introduction for herself and The Friends, which felt heartfelt rather than awkward and forced. Each member of the band seemed just as thrilled to be onstage as Sammy herself. Being their last show, it was an emotional one. During the introduction, along with the many other chats she shared with the crowd, Sammy became choked up, and the tears running down her face could be seen from the balcony. Her closeness with her band was evident, and is on a level unmatched by most other professionals.
During the second song, “Follow Me Like the Moon,” Sammy continued to skip around the stage, eventually lying down on her back, while still managing to holler a perfect belt. It was hard not to get chills from her voice. It had a gravelly quality while also being crystal clear and sugary sweet, which suited her funky, jazzy-pop style immaculately.
During the emotional “Living Room Floor,” Sammy took to the keyboard while her band gathered together on a rug. This ballad about growing up showcased Sammy’s songwriting chops, bringing her to tears yet again. Despite her emotion, her voice sounded identical to the studio recording of the song. By the end of the song, her band was wrapped around her in a tight embrace.
Sammy Rae raises a triumphant arm. Photo: Henry Shifrin.
From this sweeping ballad, Sammy moved into the upbeat “Jackie Onassis,” further showcasing her songwriting and performing skills. Spitting out cheeky rhymes like “She looked like Jackie Onassis / Top of her classes,” she continued to charm the audience. She wrapped a cape of rainbow sparkly streamers around her shoulders and threw a blue cap on, making the atmosphere even more fun. While playing, she informed the crowd that “This song is for the girls and the gays. We can be AND, we don’t have to be OR. To be queer is to be unlimited…If you are queer [or an ally] and you’re in this room, we love you, we thank you, and we see you. And if you’re in this room, and you’re neither of these things, then unfortunately you’re in the wrong room!” The room erupted with screams of love, the loudest they had been so far.
Sammy never let her energy drop at any point throughout the show, continuing to jump with insane height, threatening the security of the microphone pack attached to her clothes. She spun across the stage, which was covered in fan tributes, such as homemade denim jackets, flowers, and signs. Sammy also pointed out that she was wearing each and every bracelet handed to her before the show.
Towards the end of the show, Sammy covered Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World,” adding that she did not write it, but that she wished she did. Her jazzy rendition transformed the classic into a whole new song. Neither her powerful tone nor infectious energy wavered once throughout the show.
Arms go up in the crowd at Royale. Photo: Henry Shifrin.
One of the last songs, “Let’s Throw a Party,” captured the essence of the show, and her most recent album. Sammy said it was written during the chaos of 2020 when her tour was canceled, and she and The Friends faced an identity crisis of how they wanted to move forward. They ended up turning to social media, and found “amazing love and sense of community.” “Let’s Throw a Party” is the perfect mix of chaos and serenity, showing how Sammy takes the opportunity to learn lessons during moments of change. Her mindset? “If I can’t do anything about it, that means I can do whatever I want!”
It would be difficult to find another artist who promotes safety and love with the audience the way Sammy does. Her website states, “We don’t have fans, we have friends,” along with her mantra — “Go put a smile on somebody’s face. Go tell somebody they’ve got a place in this world. Go tell somebody you wanna be friends with them.” After the show, everyone exited the venue with a smile on their face, having absorbed Sammy’s energy, proud to call themselves her Friends.