Sophia - Apr. 7 '04: Life Café, Manchester (UK)

Review 1
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!!
Jules Pemberton

Review 2
"WE'RE not God Machine," reminded Robin Proper-Sheppard, well aware of the scores of fans he has inherited from his early nineties rock group.

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,

Set list
So Slow
If Only
Swept Back
Desert Song #2
Oh My Love
Within Without
The Sea
Another Friend (Robin solo acoustic)
River Song
If a Change is Gonna Come