Sophia - Nov. 17 '04: Scala, London (UK) (+ string quartet) with The Silent League

An eagerly anticipated (at least by me!) return to the UK for Robin Proper-Sheppard's Sophia. We've had a good few months for the songs on "People Are Like Seasons" to find a place in our hearts alongside those from the previous albums. Now they're like old friends. But Robin's got a few more friends to meet, both real and metaphorical...

The previously unheard instrumental "Airports" plays as the band take their places. When they're assembled they plunge into "Wind In Your Sail", another new song and a perfect introduction to the four new (human) members of the Sophia collective - the string quartet! It's a sweeping majestic track, the strings and piano complementing the plaintive vocals.

Then it's onto more familiar territory. A trio of classics, the beautiful "Fool","Swept Back" and "If Only" build the set towards the first really heavy number. The awesome "Desert Song 2" - one of the best tracks on the newest LP and a nod to Robin's history with the God Machine - builds and builds to it's incredible climax. Any other band would probably keep this track in reserve, until the end of the set, but we all know Sophia have much more to give.

Despite the intrusion of Sophia's first stage diver (Robin seems quite chuffed that it happened in London) and a quick chat with someone on an audience member's mobile the rest of the set passes with the usual Sophia aplomb. The crushingly heavy riffs at the end of The River Song provide what is probably the live-music-highlight of my year so far - somehow I manage to control the urge to scream and jump up and down. The beautiful version of the heart-wrenching "So Slow", performed acoustic with only the strings for backing, is simply stunning.

In any other year Sophia would have won "Richy's Best Band 2004", but this year belongs to Oceansize. However, when, in the hopefully distant future, the day of reckoning comes I think Sophia will be in a very good position to win "Best Band Of My Lifetime".

Set list
Intro : Airports
Wind in your sail
Swept back
If Only
Desert song No. 2
Oh my love
Holidays are nice
I Left You
Bad man
The river song
If a change is gonna come
So slow (Robin & strings, without the band)
The sea