I Left You
Desert Song No. 2
Ship In The Sand
It's Easy to Be Lonely
Oh My Love
We See You (Taking Aim)
After numerous postponements caused by the pandemic, the Sophia are finally returning to Italy : tonight we are at the Locomotiv Club for one of the last indoor concerts of the season for the Bologna venue, before moving to the nearby Arena Puccini for the summer programming.
The creature of Robin Proper-Sheppard released his new excellent album “Holding On / Letting Go” in September 2020 and this is the perfect opportunity to finally listen to it live after almost two years from its release.
In front of a rather full hall (albeit not sold-out), the English musician who has been stationed for a long time in Berlin will reiterate his joy several times during the evening to play once again in this city, where he has always obtained many expressions of affection from part of his Emilian fans.
The concert opens with "Strange Attractor", the opening-track of their most recent effort: the song is constantly growing with those powerful guitars dominating the scene, but despite the intensity, it is impossible to remain insensitive to the sweetness of the vocals of Robin , on whose face appears a mustache that we had never seen in the past.
Even the following "Undone.Again" is an excerpt from "Holding On / Letting Go": although it does not lack a good dose of instrumental energy with indie-rock influences, the piece stands out for its beautiful melodies that we would define almost sucking and for the passion in Proper-Sheppard 's voice .
Even musicians of great class and experience like the Englishman sometimes make mistakes: in fact, tonight Robin , perhaps too excited, forgets the lyrics of "Alive", almost ashamed of the lack, but is immediately forgiven by everything. the Bolognese audience encourages him with a heartfelt applause and, after playing “Wait”, tries again and this time everything runs perfectly. The rhythm is low, the feelings are at the center of the scene and then there is this sax that draws landscapes of absurd beauty, even without necessarily following predetermined patterns.
Then we gladly take a dip in the past with “Desert Song N. 2”, taken from “People Are Like Seasons” (2004): it is a continuous succession of growing emotions as well as the instrumentation. It starts only with guitar and vocals and then adds the magical touch of the violin, but it is precisely when you think you have brought home a touching song, that a truly unexpected sonic violence comes out, but which perfectly describes the many feelings that make up this splendid piece. .
Another pearl of the evening is definitely "If Only", which not only allows us to take a journey to their origins - the album in which it was contained, "The Infinite Circle" is dated 1998 - but gives us other moments of pure poetry bringing us in a folk world where the passion of Robin 's vocals is the main protagonist between nostalgia and sweetness.
Finally, it is "It's Easy To Be Lonely" that closes the mainset: it is another of those melancholy songs that start with low rhythms built with piano and percussion and then grow and explode, always giving emotional sensations of rare beauty.
It is “Oh My Love” that opens the substantial encore with powerful riffs that take us to 90s alt-rock territories with precious melodies.
After the energy of "Resisting", the concert is closed by "We See You (Taking Aim)", angry and with insistent punk sounds, gives the Emilian audience an unexpected burst of energy before returning to the heat and the heat of the Bolognese evening.
Another excellent proof for Proper-Sheppard and companions who every time we see them live show they can draw their emotions with immense class and a lot of quality: the forgetfulness of the beginning of the concert is widely forgiven and tonight's vote remains undoubtedly very high.
Antonio Paolo Zucchelli, 22/05/2022, indieforbunnies.com
Sophia 's latest album , Holding On / Letting Go , has been out for two years now and Robin Proper-Sheppard has finally been able to bring it to the stages. Sure, the band had turned the amps back on sometime since the start of the pandemic, in Brussels for Nuits Botaniques or at a festival in Leffinge, Belgium, last September, but not on a tour proper, what had already been. postponed twice. The group is therefore finally on the way to a tour that takes them to Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Belgium, three countries where the audience of the former thinking head of The God Machineit is among the densest. The suitcases were thus placed tonight in Bologna, a splendid medieval city in the region of Emilia Romagna, extraordinarily well preserved and where the heat in this month of May is already suffocating.
Sophia play at the Locomotiv Club, a concert hall run by a local association which also has a recording studio and owns a label. The place is located inside a railway desert that has been transformed into an alternative cultural place. It is through the Italian Culture Sport Association that we enter the room on a human scale that can accommodate about two hundred and fifty people and which have seen groups such as Swans , Deerhunter , St Vincent pass by. Minimalist ambiance - the place is full of good vibes.
The synthetic notes of Strange Attractor resonate as the group arrives on stage with particularly intense applause, with the room reasonably full. The distorted bass sets the tone for the evening, which will be placed under the sign of power. Robin is accompanied by six musicians tonight. Anyone who has come to see the acoustic version of Sophia will have their ears on fire.
The guitars are there, violin and saxophone complete the picture. This first track is compact, incisive, they show a side of Sophia that has emerged in recent years, that of a very rock group, able to combine passages of joyful violence with more intimate moments. Let's be honest, there are times when parentage with The God Machine is creepy and touching. The youth of the group accompanying Robin is certainly no stranger to this energetic momentum, Robin regularly enjoys pointing this out in the form of jokes. The group continues with Undone. Again. , little pearl of the last album. Robin, as usual, sings with his eyes closed. She has a constant smile, proof of her happiness at being there. And after all, she doesn't need to sing songs of infinite sadness while pouting.
This concert started very well, the band relaxed, very much in its place. A particularly warm atmosphere reigns on the stage among the musicians. The first notes of I Left You overwhelm us: a song that was initially part of the live album De Nachten , was later resumed in the work of 2004, People Are Like Seasons . Love at first sight, this piece is an epitome of beauty. The band continues with Alive, from the last album, when Robin stops. "I forgot the lyrics" he says, a little annoyed. “Someone could help me, but without searching the internet,” he tells the audience, without straying from his caustic humor. This one does not come at all, he abandons. The group, kindly amused, continues with Wait,all musicians who tune hearts at the beginning of the title. For the time being the last album has been done justice, with Robin responding present to defend this excellent work.
Stubborn and knowing the enormous potential of the game left to rest, Robin returns to Alive. Luckily: the piece ends with an epic saxophone solo, bringing tension, vibration, a cut that does not leave the audience indifferent. No inconsistency in the presence on stage of this element that one might think far from the Sophia universe. A magnetic blow has just touched us.
The group continues with Birds, which appeared on Technology Wont Save Us (2006), with still some nice saxophone passages. Robin wears the clothes of a crooner on this title, with his elegantly fine mustache. He had talked about them with humor at the Frankfurt concert, specifying that he had hesitated to keep them but the group had dissuaded him from shaving them, probably to mock him behind his back. Self-irony, always and in any case.
The violinist plays the first notes of Desert Song no2, a piece of exceptional strength and which proves that the group currently around Robin is probably the best formation that has ever accompanied him to date. Moment of rare intensity. The audience is full of admiration. The group lifted their feet a little from the distortion pedals to play the beautiful Ship In The Sand then two emblematic titles of the first albums, If Only and So Slow.And here something completely new happens in a Sophia concert: the audience sings their hearts out with the group, picking up the words in an almost religious fervor. Everyone stares and is surprised to scream over particularly dark words: "But death come so slow, when you're waiting, when you're waiting to be taken". Amazing harmony between the group and its audience.
Sophia continues with Bastards, another title that takes on all its meaning live, the density of sound reaching the heights. We emphasize that the new drummer, who replaces Robin's long-time traveling companion ( Jeff Towsin , who was unable to participate in the tour), brings nervousness to the whole, his impacts pounding like cleavers.
Sophia ends their main set with the sublime It's Easy To Be Lonely, taken from the penultimate album, As We Make Our Way (Unknown Harbor). With the guitars at the end, he bled out. But the group is hardly begged and quickly returns to give Oh my Love, Another Friend, Resisting and the very busy and post punk We See You (Taking Aim) : a concert-sized finale, overwhelming and captivating.
This evening was magnificent, the band put on a Dante show. Precise, massive, happy to be on stage and very sincere, the Sophia present in Bologna went beyond our expectations. This group, in addition to its musical qualities, also has exceptional human values: it is enough to see Robin welcoming the spectators to his merch banquet, with a word for each, a handshake and a genuine thank you.
But what was not yet known when writing these lines on the train that connects Bologna to Milan to extend the pleasure a little more with a new show, is that the evening of the next day at the Arci Bellezza club in Milan was even more sensational (it was not thought possible). The group and the public that evening came together in one of those magical, almost supernatural moments that only art is able to offer. Everything was just sound and sweat, emotions that unite souls in the heat of bodies. We have all entered into a happy, fiery, dizzying liquefaction. In Milan, Sophia's music was a euphoric outlet, a wave of sensitive emotions, fury, joy, musical ecstasy. Robin confided to us that he had probably experienced the best show of his twenty-five-year career with Sophia, in a moment of absolute grace. Touching the divine can happen.
Stëphan Cordary;23/05/2022, Obsküre Magazine
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