In January 2014, Sophie Ellis-Bextor – who’d scored six UK top 10 singles by that point – released Wanderlust, an album full of baroque chamber pop and experimental flirtations with folk. The sudden shift away from the disco and dance of old was seen as risky by many, including Ellis-Bextor herself. She needn’t have worried; it subsequently crashed into the UK top 5, spent three weeks inside the top 10 and went Gold. Its success – both commercially and creatively – has been a huge influence on its follow-up, the equally gorgeous, surprising and engaging Familia.
A nasty, wet, cold, hail and thunder evening was the night of the Sophie Ellis-Bextor gig. She came onto the stage at Concorde 2 in Brighton and thanked everyone for coming out on such a filthy night. Sophie was backed with an incredible live band. The band was made up of a guitarist, two, yes two, violin players who also did some backing vocals, drums, bass and keyboards. It was tight for space on the stage. The band worked really well together after playing for some weeks on the Familia tour – the crowd immediately got the hook and engaged with a set that spanned Sophie’s whole music career. I don’t know the names of the band members – but hats off to them. Top class.
Sophie opened the Brighton set with Wild Forever from the new album Familia. We were constantly reminded of this as Sophie was sporting a pair of short shorts with Familia stitched across the back of said shorts in big letters, and again later as she produced a “rock n roll” Familia tea cloth! We were given a full range of material from Sophie. Some damn fine electric guitar kicked in and we even had a rock chick/rock chic song from Sophie. We had newer tracks from her latest album, and some from Wanderlust. All beautifully delivered to a large crowd of fans.
The set was pretty much as follows: Wild Forever, Death of Love, Crystallise, The Deer & the Wolf, Hush Little Voices, Love Is a Camera, The Distance Between Us, Mixed Up World, Me And My Imagination, Cassandra, 13 Little Dolls, Young Blood, Unrequited, Don’t Shy Away, Come With Us, Take Me Home, Lady (Hear Me Tonight), Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love), Sing It Back, Heartbreak (Make Me a Dancer), Murder on the Dancefloor and Here Comes the Rapture.
Sophie then did a brief “unplugged” selection of three acoustic cut back tracks – just her and a guitar. This was seriously good as Sophie let her vocals fill the venue with words and that flutter in her voice that reaches into your very soul. You could of heard a pin drop as the audience stood, watched and listened. A snippet of Bring it Back – truly spellbinding.
We had more uptempo songs as Sophie twirled and danced around the stage, and didn’t drop a note or sound out of breath – just brilliant. She had some heels on and she did observe she would have to be careful as she didn’t want to fall off the stage as it was pretty high! Thankfully she made it through the performance without a head first dive into the press pit!
The band continued to play as Sophie left the stage. The audience enjoying the brief musical interlude clapping along to the beat. Then Sophie was back. She came back wearing a kind of yellow baby doll with a sequin covered undergarment. She twirls and laughs and informed us in the crowd that it is now disco time! What we got was an almost non-stop extended medley, her brilliant band kicking off with her own and other’s hits and this included Moloko’s Sing It Back. Brilliant! And to show their appreciation the Brighton crowd did not let her down, singing and dancing their way through this quite remarkable line up of hit songs.
Sophie’s a true professional and always in time with her band continued to deliver hit after hit and winding up with a rousing crowd pleaser finish, Murder On The Dancefloor. Sophie then left the stage. That was it, well so we thought. Everyone facing the stage waiting for Sophie to come back on. But no, she was to suddenly reappear by the sound desk, near the back of the venue with the audience at the back with her fabulous guitarist to perform a completely acoustic number, no microphones or amps. The large crowd fell silent again. It was a class ending from Sophie, which just captured what the show was all about and herself. Stunning, and to do that for those who had been at the back of the room shows what a thoughtful professional she is.
A great set from Sophie Ellis-Bextor, everything was perfect. She worked hard, she didn’t stop for the entire set and she looked as though she was enjoying the evening as much as we were. She sang with passion, disco fever, power and with the flutter in her voice.
Sophie Ellis-Bextor is on the web
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All pictures – copyright to IANB/MEDIA WORKS/ Scene Sussex/ Ian “The Lens” Bourn 2017.