Tonight was the first time I'd been to a Sophia gig. After being on
a bit of a high from having had the chance to speak to Robin - and
what a bloody decent, thoughtful, articulate bloke he is - the gig
kicked off in a great way - So Slow. Ah hell, what a moving song that
is in its studio form, but live... WOW! Fortunately I didn't make
a fool of myself by crying. I was expecting to, on hearing this song;
especially when the 10th anniversary of Jimmy's death is just over
a month away. Perhaps because it was the first song, I hadn't had
time for the emotions to build up to breaking point. It still hadn't
quite settled in that I was there... finally... seeing the band right
before me. Seeing the ex-singer of the one band I hold most dear to
me. I love Sophia but The God Machine are my favourite ever band,
more than The Clash (and that's saying something!).
The sound was clear and loud, no hiccups throughout the gig from what
I remember. Having no previous Sophia gig experience to compare the
show with I can't say whether it was one of their best or not. Robin
certainly seemed in a warm, amiable mood - seeing him react to a young
lady pleading with him to play Another Friend was fun - "So if
I DON'T shake your hand I DON'T have to play it?" (or words to
that effect). I must admit to feeling a bit cheated when I first learnt
there'd be no orchestral backing on this tour, as the De Nachten album
is so beautifully and powerfully enhanced by the orchestra's playing
(as with the TGM songs that featured string accompaniment, it works
so well, interwoven with the songs rather than feeling tacked on and
unnecessary) but I wasn't disappointed. Sophia rocked, even on the
non-noise fests! The highlights for me were So Slow, Desert Song No.2,
Oh My Love and, of course The River Song, which was astounding in
its power. A real show-stopper. Unfortunately the show did stop there
for me, I left to catch my train as they tore into If A Change Is
Gonna Come..., and whatever may have followed that. I have GOT to
see Sophia in full next time around. Even if it means sleeping on
a park bench!!
"WE'RE not God Machine," reminded Robin Proper-Sheppard,
well aware of the scores of fans he has inherited from his early nineties
The San Diegan's new five-piece band Sophia found themselves in serious
mood in one of Manchester's most upmarket venues on the penultimate
date of their mammoth two-month European tour.
As you would expect after close to 50 gigs, it was a no-nonsense
performance which maintained a steady, country-inspired pace throughout,
in contrast to the showy barmen spinning bottles and fixing cocktails.
But Proper-Sheppard was the perfect talkative, charismatic frontman,
even taking requests, one of which Another Friend, he admitted he
hadn't played live in five years and had never practiced with his
band. The only song performed solo, it benefited from his Smashing
Pumpkins-style closing refrain.
Proper-Sheppard's melancholic voice perfectly complemented the band's
haunting atmospherics, with simple and catchy guitar riffs layered
over fuzzy acoustics.
But Sophia have also begun to re-discover the heavier edge that God
Machine were renowned for, and so the rock-out of The Sea impressed
those noise freaks present.
As the set progressed, however, the band grew louder and louder.
And by the encore, the volume became too much for those hoping to
hear the sensitive, brooding ballads.
A slightly disappointing end to an otherwise impeccable performance.
Chris Horkan, manchesteronline.co.uk
Desert Song #2
Oh My Love
Another Friend (Robin solo acoustic)
If a Change is Gonna Come