Sophia - Jan. 13 '01: De Singel, Antwerp (B) (De Nachten)
Review 1
I went to see Sophia at ‘de Singel’ in Antwerp (which is only a five minute from my home). The 1000-capacity venue was almost completely full. The band used a grand piano and there was also a string quartet, which Robin described as a dream come true. This line-up added something special to the gig. The strings made the songs really come alive. And they used the piano on every song (except the river song).
But what I was really curious about were the new songs. And I must say I’m very excited about the new album. The new songs are a big progression from the Infinite Circle album. The songs have a much richer arrangement and a more elaborate song structure. Lyrics-wise Robin has made a big step forward too.
They started the gig with a new one: ‘The sea’ (“Follow me to the sea”), a long epic song with a big role for the piano (although that can be said of all the new songs). You could almost call it a grotesque ballad. Next up was 'Ship', a calm and contemplative song. Then they played some old one's: 'If only', 'So slow' and a moving ‘Are you happy now’.
Next up was my personal favourite: 'Bad Man' (“I’m a bad man, just like you said"). It sounded like Sophia meets Ennio Morricone. Not only the guitar sound, but also the whole atmosphere reminded me of his movie scores. Robin sings the chorus with a high voice. A very impressive and emotional song. A chicken goose moment too.
Then they played 'Like a record' (from the May Queens album). Even this song had a piano part! It was the second time they played it, and only the first time without mistakes.
Another high point was 'Jealous guy', a John Lennon cover. Robin said that it should have been a song he wrote himself. And you can understand why: the music and lyrics are very alike Robins own style of writing. Robin usually breaks a string during the gig. This time he chose 'Jealous guy' to break it. :-)
Then Robin got an Elvis guitar out for the last two songs (see picture). First up was 'I left you' Another brilliant and epic new one, which builds up slowly to a great finale.
Before he started with 'The river song' Robin told us that when his daughter (Hope) was born, he swore he would never miss her birthday. She turned 4 on Saturday, and it was the first time he wasn't with her on her birthday. Too be able to prove to her he had to play for a large audience that night, we all had to sing 'Happy birthday' for her. He will let her listen at the tape next time he sees her.
By the way, 'The river song' was amazing, they just kept going on. And when the violins fell in somewhere near the end it was orgasmic. This was the best Sophia gig I've seen so far. Can't wait for the live CD.
I asked the sound technician for his copy of the set list but he bluntly refused to give it. Very nice indeed! But I got one from the roadies after the gig, so this is the correct set list:
*The sea
*Ship in the sand
*If only
*So slow
*Are you happy now
*Bad man
*Like a record
*Jealous guy
*I left you
*The river song
Wouter Berteloot

Review 2
Also very intense was Sophia's set, which was being recorded for a live-CD. A good idea, considering the fact that singer Robin Proper-Sheppard had completed his band with an all-female string quartet who gave his introspective musing some extra drama. Well-known songs like 'Are you happy now' and the fragile 'So slow' were alternated with very fine new material and with 'Jealous guy' which he borrowed from John Lennon. But before leaving the stage Proper-Sheppard managed to break through the carefully constructed All Saints' Day atmosphere when he let the whole audience sing 'Happy Birthday' for his daughter. Likeable.
Dirk Steenhaut, de Morgen, 15/01/2001