|Sophia - Aug. 25 '01: Pukkelpop, Kiewit (B)|
Sophia might not seem like a band that reaches it’s full potential at a festival gig. The quiet and introspective songs ask for an intimistic setting and a decent sound check. They can certainly do without the noise from a nearby skate-stage that provides the latest in nu-metal and punk mayhem, thus making it hard for the people at the back of the marquee to fully appreciate the gig.
Nonetheless, Sophia (including string quartet) was welcomed with a very warm applause by the full capacity marquee. The band started with ‘The sea’ and ‘Ship in the sand’, followed by 3 quiet ‘oldies’ from the first two albums. In the hot marquee this didn’t make the right impact on an audience that after three days of music and tropic temperatures seemed to loose attention. Robin felt things were slightly going the wrong way and decided to change the set-list. Saying he felt like rocking, he started a, well…, rocking version of ‘Jealous guy’. This was the turning point in the gig. From then on everything went perfect. ‘Bad Man’ and an absolutely brilliant version of ‘I left you’ set the crowd alight. And then ‘The river song’ still had to come. For this last song, the band was joined by Will Foster, who had just played a gig with Heather Nova on the main stage and therefore had been replaced by another piano player. Foster provided the song with some extra noise from a sampler. Also present was Kirsa (from label mates Copenhagen) who wore a flaming red wig and played the samba balls during the noisy ending of ‘The river song’. (No, I’m not making this up!) The song was, as always, a perfect ending for the gig that left the crowd in awe.
*Ship in the sand
*Are you happy now
*I left you
*The river song
Like a chilly autumn evening
Earlier this year, during the De Nachten festival in Antwerp and Amsterdam, Sophia played two concerts with a string quartet. On the explicit request of Pukkelpop organiser Chokri Mahassine, the changing collective around American Robin Proper-Sheppard played another gig with 4 string players under the guidance of Calina de la Mare. The sour irony was that the music was repeatedly drowned out by a punk band that was hammering away on the nearby skate stage. Understandably this made Proper-Sheppard extremely peevish. It must be said though that in some parts of the tents the noise didn’t cause any problems. From opener ‘The sea’ onward, the violins and the cello amplified the wretched feelings that are so characteristic for Sophia songs. During ‘Ship in the sand’ the bitter string instruments let you forget the tropic heat and made you feel like on a chilly autumn evening. ‘If only’ was a cry of despair that came from the cellars of Proper-Sheppard’s soul, but things got even darker with ‘So slow’, a message from the depths of a deep depression. The piano was the driving force behind the modest elegy ‘Are you happy now’. The contrast with the physically overwhelming cover of John Lennons ‘Jealous guy’ was massive, but certainly not a stylistic break. The Sophia leader told us that ‘I left you’ had been described by a British journalist as “gloriously grim”, a qualification that also worked for the rendition of the song he gave at Pukkelpop. The song exchanged quiet moments with punky passages. But Sophia saved the very best for last: during the suicidal ‘The river song’ Kiewit seemed to lay on the flanks of an active volcano. Thanks to the complete amalgamation of violins and cello with guitars, bass, drums, piano and sound effects, the song ended like a noise symphony from Godspeed You Black Emperor! It was the majestic ending of a splendid gig that moved head, heart and belly.
Christophe Verbiest, De Morgen, 27/8/2001
Sandwiched among all the rock noise, the surprising concerts were often given by groups making intimate, quiet and often melancholy music. Sparklehorse was touching in the same way Elbow had been the day before, a filled Marquee obviously knew all the words to Sophia's ’So slow’ – why doesn’t this band sell more records? Just like during ‘De Nachten’, singer Robin Proper-Sheppard brought along a classical string quartet that accentuated his sorrow beautifully.
Inge Schelstraete en Sasha Van der Speeten, De Standaard, 27/08/2001
A special bond has formed between Sophia and Belgium over the past years, which meant a home court advantage in Hasselt. In honour of the occasion, the band included a string quartet, whose muted passages served to beautifully enhance the melancholy atmosphere. During the finale of ‘The river song’, frontman Proper-Sheppard also showed that, when necessary, he can blast any punk band clear off the stage.
Het Nieuwsblad, 27/08/2001