The Song Diaries

REVIEW: Sophie Ellis-Bextor – ‘The Song Diaries’ Live!

Sophie Ellis Bextor – ‘The Song Diaries’ – Live in Concert, Birmingham Symphony Hall, 8th June 2019

by Mark Keen

This concert with a full life orchestra was a real delight. There are now some extra dates in the autumn so it would be murder on the dance floor if you don’t get yourselves there. I guarantee that you will have an amazing time. Sophie gives 100% commitment from the minute she steps on stage to the minute she leaves and genuinely wants to please. Anyone who can remember the names of every single person in an orchestra and a band deserves a round of applause (which she got). Granted one of her band members was her husband Richard Jones from The Feeling! My only worry was that did that mean Janet Ellis was babysitting the five children!

The concert is really in two parts – the first being fully orchestrated and the last half an hour a combination of the orchestra and her band in full disco mode ramping up the energy and getting everyone on their feet.

Sophie gave a stunning performance and really entertained the crowd showing a great sense of humour and a completely down to earth persona. Sometimes Sophie’s voice is criticised as not having an enormous range, but that could be true of many of the best entertainers. She certainly made up for this by singing perfectly throughout and actually sounding better than she does on record. Her voice gets the chance to breathe more and the song lyrics really show their poignancy like never before. Perhaps “Mixed Up World” is really a song for our time at present.

Songs from throughout her career are included with some well chosen covers including “Young Hearts Run Free” and “Don’t Leave Me This Way” in the disco session. Highlights for me included “Youngblood”, “Mixed Up World” and “Love Is You”, the inspiration for “Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)”. The big hits, such as “Murder On The Dance Floor”, “Catch You” and “Take Me Home” were obviously present, plus perhaps some lesser known songs such as “Wild Flower” and “Love Is A Camera”. I would have liked to hear “I Won’t Change You”, but that’s being a bit churlish.

With simple, but effective lighting the concert was radiant. I can’t imagine anyone leaving disappointed. Just when we though the concert had ended Sophie reappeared up in the gods with a couple of violinists for a fantastic version of her breakout hit with The audience “A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed”. A fantastic end to a great couple of hours! Extra dates have been added in November so get yourselves there. I might even pop along again!

Sophie Ellis Bextor 2019 tour

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Written by Christopher Smith

So perhaps you’ve read an article or two that I’ve written and wondered “just who is this character?”! Well I thought maybe it would be time to introduce myself and what I’m all about. Well it’s all about the music! Having been born in the late 1970’s I was heavily influenced by my parent’s love of ‘popular’ music and rock and roll of the 1950’s and 60’s. My Mother always said she should of married Elvis and my father was, and is still, in love with Sandie Shaw! But while my Dad’s tastes stopped in about 1967, my Mum carried on loving music throughout the 70’s, 80’s and beyond. My first memory was playing on the floor whilst my Mother was ironing one day with the radio on, and hearing ABBA’s “Super Trouper” dancing my nappy off to it! Maybe that’s where it all went wrong…?! Having been subjected to all and sundry in my infant years, I finally found my feet in the mid-1980’s and began ‘partying’ to the likes of Culture Club, Stevie Wonder(!), Elkie Brooks and Bananarama to name but a few! The year 1987 would have a profound effect on my listening tastes and from thereon in my life would be dominated with buying and listening to music. Any number of outstanding songs were released and listened to that year, most notably “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now”, “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” and “La Isla Bonita”. That Summer my mind was completely taken over with music and sounds I’d never heard before and I was totally taken in by it all. My father would say “whaaar rubbish you got on naaaaao?” (I’m from Norfolk!) but I was hooked. And it continued so for the rest of the decade and the next. At the beginning of 1988 I ‘met’ my true love and the singer I’ve worshipped more than any other artist or group. You may know of her. She’s from Australia…! Aside from pop music, my tastes are many and varied and continues to grow and expand as I ‘mature’ in age. I’ve always been heavily interested in films and in particular the mechanics of film making and of course film music, so scores and subsequently orchestral music takes up a lot of my tastes and collection. 90’s dance and club tunes also takes up much of the space in my head and I’m surprised my brain has stopped shaking from the years of abuse it took being dragged to nightclubs, often three times a week in my 20’s! I find with each year that passes I regress back to my youth and of course the 1980’s. 80’s music dominates and the lust to see as many 80’s acts and singers play live now is insatiable. I’m still getting into the groove as much as every breath I take, but I’m never gonna give up listening to my heart and pumping up the volume, simply because I LOVE MUSIC…any kind of music!
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