Sophia - May 06 '07: Spitz, London (UK), with The Ash and The Oak
I left you
Are you happy now?
Where are you now?
Oh my love
Big City Rot
Desert Song No 2
Ship in the sand
The River Song
It has now been a while since Sophia have last played in London, it was October 2005, and the echo of that performance is still in our ears.
The Spitz is not the Barbican but the growing atmosphere in this little venue as the band (collective?) approach the stage is amazing.
After placing, as usual, his talisman around the microphone, Robin builds up the event reporting how comfortable he feels in the place and finally, the notes of "I left you" begin filling the air, what a start!!! I'm personally enthusiastic as, after several Sophia's gigs, this is the first time I can enjoy this terrific song live, "Are you happy now", shortly follows and it sounds like a personal question to me...of course I am!!!
"Where are you now" open the introduction to the new album, which continues with "Pace" and "Big City Rot", just for the last two to be split by "Oh my love", taken from previous album "People are like seasons", as well as "Desert Song no.2" that comes after.
"Everyday" is a gift from milestone album "The Infinite Circle" that anticipate two more songs from latest "Technology won't save us", "P1/P2" and "Lost(She believes in angels)", but that is not the only present that Sophia offer to the fans tonight, as "Ship in the sand" and "The Sea", included in live album "De nachten" end the first part of this emotional performance.
Robin and friend's are really on form tonight, and we have the pleasure to see Adam playing after quite a while.
They come back on stage after a short break, to hit hard with the wonderful "Birds" and the unmissable "So slow" which always take some tears apart, the end is set with a very noise 9-minute version of "The river song" that leaves them and us all completely exhausted.
A tough night for guitars, drums and...souls.
They say "People are like seasons...everybody changes"...thanks god, Sophia don't, always and incredibly breath-taking and amazing.
Words Of Wisdom
It's Sunday night and PlayLouder's donned our deerstalker and puffing a pipe as we sleuth our way to The Spitz for a performance by the elusive Sophia. Hark as we chuck up our beating hearts through yearning gullet.
"You've done some great detective work to get here tonight," says our man on stage. Not that great - I don't even know his name: Sophia have no Wikipedia page, which is enough in itself to scare the shit out of me. (How to write a review without one?)
"For those of you who are here by accident, we're not the Norwegian metal band, Sophia," he insists. "Nor are we the Japanese pop group, Sophia. For those who are here on purpose, well done for finding us."
I'm about to heckle him - to insist that Sophia # 2 are actually Swedish, and really more of an industrial, neoclassical outfit than a metal band - but as I open my mouth to speak, there sounds the first four notes of 'I Left You', and my heart lurches up into my trachea, and I choke.
You know, he was half-right: I for one did a hell of a lot of work to get to The Spitz this Sunday night; like all modern detectives, I work exclusively on the internet and have no brick-thick sidekick to worship me in a way both oedipal and homoerotic, nor even to make me tea and fetch me biscuits. It goes something like this:
1998 - Moved to England. Dad started reading Metal Hammer, which was giving away free CDs, one of which included a fine Cradle of Filth Track entitled 'Lustmord and Wargasm (the Lick of Carnivorous Winds)'.
2002 - University, second year, Exeter: trying in vain to rebuild the CD collection I no longer had access to, I purchased the CoF album 'Cruelty and the Beast', but could not afford the two-disk edition with bonus tracks, and so
2004 - Finally having a computer with broadband, I set about downloading (amongst countless other things) 'Lustmord and Wargasm (the Relicking of Cadaverous Wounds)' - the long coveted extended version of the previously mentioned Filth track; it was a letdown, but I did accidentally download some tracks by the band Cadaverous Condition, which led me to the discovery of a genre of music called neofolk.
2005 - After gorging
myself on neofolk for a year I moved into neoclassical, and read of
a martial industrial Swedish band called Sophia. You can imagine my
surprise, feverish reader, when my search indicated that a cover version
of a classic Pet Shop Boys single ('You only tell me you love me when
you're drunk') was available for download. I downloaded the song,
realised it was by another band, loved it, listened to it, forgot
Almost 15 years had passed since the last time this W&H writer had seen Robin Proper-Sheppard of SOPHIA in his previous guise as front-man for The God Machine playing a loudly shimmering performance at a glorious Glastonbury festival. At that time the band were plying their “Scenes From The Second Storey” album, a groundbreaking piece of early Emo rock that would prove highly influential to emerging bands at the time, the one most obviously at all being Mogwai.
God Machine’s music was a plethora of guitar noise which would appeal to those whose thirst was for heavy rock, but it also offered up something more - an intense sensitivity which utilised piano, cello and acoustic guitars to create great waves and crescendos of emotion.
Just before the release of their follow up album, their bassist Jimmy Fernandes tragically dropped dead of a brain tumour. Proper-Sheppard emerged from this harrowing experience, at first withdrawing from making music altogether and then resurfacing and shifting his style toward a softer sound. The intense emotions were still there, but understandably there was a sense that Proper-Sheppard didn’t want, or need to use a metaphorical machine gun to get his message across.
In the crowded but intimate setting of the Spitz club, it was clear Proper-Sheppard hadn’t lost his energy or enthusiasm for performing to his appreciative fans, in-between songs affectionately offering up small talk. It was clear, and warming to see that his sextuplet band really enjoying performing together, smiling familiarly at one another other when successfully carrying out a group crescendo riffs and all that.
Regularly changing guitars, the acoustic and electric performances of the songs all carried a genuine gravitas. There has always been something strangely dignified in the sound Proper-Sheppard creates, the audio version of some beacon spirit hailing against giant waves of human despair.
The night was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster - we had solemnity, warmth and a genuine experience of intimacy. Personally, I felt grateful to have witnessed Sophia perform such significant and effective music with such sensitivity.
Robin A. Hayward, Whisperin & Hollerin
Photos by Robin A. Hayward
Photos by Aline Giordano