There are some artists that you only need to see once. You know, to hear the hits. Sophie Ellis-Bextor is not one of those artists, at least not for me. In all fairness, it’s becoming impossible to see her only once – if there’s a festival, she’s there!
Sophie was my favourite singer as a child (until Shakira released ‘She Wolf’, that is). This was my fourth time seeing her live, third time as a headliner, and second time at the beautiful Bridgewater Hall. I last saw her at AO Arena, when she opened for Steps, and the first time I saw her was at the intimate Gorilla.
She’s come a long way since then: this was more than just a concert; it was a whole ass production, with the stage designed to resemble Sophie’s kitchen. It is, after all, the Kitchen Disco Tour, named after the much-loved Kitchen Disco series she did during the lockdown – and the album it inspired, Songs from the Kitchen Disco. The Kitchen Disco was so iconic that the BBC referred to Sophie as “woman from Kitchen Disco”, as if people were unfamiliar with the pop princess!
Sophie’s opening act was Holiday Sidewinder, whose set was smooth and sultry. I was disappointed that she didn’t sing her most-known song, ‘Kokomo’, but I guess she wanted to showcase her new music.
After the interval, the pristine white curtain that covered the stage fell from the sky. Sophie was sat on a life-sized fake horse, with backing singers and a backing band – of which her husband, Richard Jones of The Feeling, and brother, Jackson Ellis Leach, were a part of. Gigantic fake windows were placed at the back of the stage, and a table (draped in a foil fringe skirt) made an appearance a few songs into the set, in an attempt to transform the stage into Sophie’s quirky kitchen.
She opened the show with ‘Take Me Home’ and opened the encore with a cover of Madness’ ‘Our House’. She really went hard with all the house/home stuff!
I particularly loved the inclusion of the spinning wheel. There were probably about 20 different songs on the wheel. Both times, the song landed on ‘It’s a Sin’ (Pet Shop Boys), which is probably the song that had gotten the biggest applause from the audience. She wasn’t about to sing the same song twice, though, so she span it again, only for it to land on her choice. She let Jack made the call, and he chose ‘Ain’t Nobody’ (Chaka Khan).
She sang most of her hits, including her only number 1, ‘Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)’, and ‘Get Over You’ (the song that made little me fall in love with her). She closed the main set with her signature song, ‘Murder on the Dancefloor’, and ended the show with a cover of Rodger and Hamerstein’s ‘My Favourite Things’ (from The Sound of Music). She sang several covers throughout the concert, all of which were great, but this one was excellent: her cut-class, RP voice is perfect for this song – which was most famously sang by none other than Dame Julie Andrews DBE.
However, ‘My Favourite Things’ was almost ruined by an obnoxious audience member sat in the Gods. Sophie tends to end her concerts by making an appearance in the circle, standing amongst the audience. She did this the last time she performed at Bridgewater Hall, and she even did it at Gorilla.
She chose to sing ‘My Favourite Things’ without a microphone, creating ambience and intimacy. She placed a finger to her lips to quiet the audience down, to a little difficulty. Eventually, everybody shut up, but when she began singing, a group of people sat in the Heavens began clapping, silencing Sophie. She stopped singing, visibly frustrated, and all but one got the message. The remaining person – almost definitely a drunk, middle-aged man – continued clapping, ferociously, even whilst half the audience yelled at them to stop.
I couldn’t believe it. Imagine paying money to go and see an artist live only to interrupt their final performance and ruin it for the other 2000 people at a sold-out concert.
I don’t know what happened, but the repulsive palooka finally gave in – maybe somebody committed murder on the dancefloor – allowing Sophie to sing her charming cover of one of the foremost musical theatre standards. Sophie’s cover of the song is the final track on Songs from the Kitchen Disco, so finishing the concert with that song was a nice touch.
This was, by far, the best Sophie Ellis-Bextor concert I’ve been to, even though a deplorable dufus killed the vibe in its closing moments. I’m already excited for the next concert. Sophie’s working on new music, so watch this space!