The poshest voice in pop kicked off her latest tour in Norwich last night in support of her sixth studio album, Familia. Filled with tracks from her back catalogue that span almost two decades in the music industry, the night proved to be full of surprises as she united her newer Eastern European sound with noughties disco pop.
It all started with support act Lock, a girl band whose sound is reminiscent of artists like Halsey and The Pierces. Raised on the songs of the 60s and the chilling atmosphere of Twin Peaks, these two sisters live and breathe music, and have a talent for weaving the melancholy into infectious hits. Their seven-piece set included the songs ‘Click’, ‘Everlasting Road’ and new single ‘New York vs Paris’, all of which were a superb blend of synth, rock and alternative pop. Their edgy style was certainly a fitting warm-up to the experimental sound of Ellis-Bextor’s new music, and was a great example of how much the headlining artist has evolved in the industry. It’s hard to imagine a band like Lock having been the support act on a tour back in her disco days.
Once Lock’s set was over and the stage was prepped for the main event, Sophie took to the stage with her opening number – ‘Wild Forever’. Within the first few bars of the song, the atmosphere was wonderfully set as the psychedelic beat played over the popstar’s entrance. The track was then followed up by her new single – ‘Death of Love’.
The quirkiness of her new music dominated the first half of the show, with many songs from Familia and Wanderlust intertwined in an audibly-pleasing mixture. ‘Crystallise’ and ‘The Deer and the Wolf’ were paired together, followed by the combination of the marvellously spooky ‘Love Is a Camera’ and ‘Hush Little Voices’. ‘Cassandra’, ‘Don’t Shy Away’ and ’13 Little Dolls’ were also performed later on, adding an extra dash of madness to the proceedings.
With most concerts, it’s not just about the music that’s played, but also the artist’s rapport with the audience. Ellis-Bextor’s personality shone through during the breaks between songs, talking about all manner of things from her history with the city (an ex-boyfriend and a colourful set of underwear) to the inspiration behind a number of her tracks. It was in these interludes that the woman behind the music was shown to be just as bubbly and quirky as her discography has shown over the last 15+ years.
A particular highlight was when she discussed what had led to the creation of one of her greatest singles – ‘Young Blood’. Written in honour of her mother’s lasting relationship with her husband – Sophie’s stepfather – the insight was a touching moment that made the following performance of the song incredibly powerful. It was a beautiful accompaniment to the performance of ‘Unrequited’ that followed afterwards.
That was just one of several standout moments of the night.
The throwback to her disco era was a great slice of heaven, complete with a costume change to a striking yellow dress made for twirling in. Her biggest hits, including ‘Take Me Home (Girl Like Me)’ and Spiller collaboration ‘Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)’, were blended into a disco medley that had the entire audience in the dancing spirit.
It was the inclusion of her Freemasons collaboration ‘Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer)’ that really stole the show though. With flashing lights and a pumping bassline, the essence of a rave was captured in this one performance that single-handedly created the most intense four minutes I’ve ever seen on stage. The moment was made all the more potent by its inclusion of a track taken from Ellis-Bextor’s most underappreciated album, Make A Scene.
It was a surprise that she had much left in the tank after the song was over, so when ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’ was announced as the final number, no-one could blame her. No-one could anticipate, however, that when she stepped off the stage, her band in tow, that she would then take to the merchandise stall and give a final acoustic cover of Familia track ‘Here Comes the Rapture’. If anyone still needed prove that Sophie Ellis-Bextor was both an exemplary performer and gorgeous vocalist, that was it.
Effortlessly, she brought the house down.
The tour continues tonight in Birmingham before travelling the UK over the next two weeks. It concludes at the start of next month with several concerts in Eastern Europe.