Are You Happy Now
Ship In The Sand
Desert Song No. 2
Darkness (Another Shade In Your Black)
Oh My Love
Death Of A Salesman
If A Change Is Gonna Come
The River Song
It's Easy To Be Lonely
"I know it was a tough choice for many of you, but thanks for being here with us tonight, instead of the Thurston Moore gig". Robin's opening words seemed to address quite some people in the audience directly, judging on the number of 'yeahs' and 'ahs' we heard behind and around us. Oh yes, it was a tough choice indeed - only in the course of the day I finally balanced towards the west coast side of these two Great American Songwriters. But by midnight, we realised we had made the right choice. Opderschmelz, the cultural center of Dudelange, is a great place to see gigs (I was happy to see I could order a tea for my aching throat and very surprised when the lady behind the counter passed me the jar of honey as I was dropping the tea bag in the cup), Simone Felice was a fantastic opener for the first day of the two-days singer-songwriter festival, and Sophia played an excellent gig. The few mistakes (lack of rehearsals? not enough gigs recently?) rather contributed to a good gig than spoiling it.
After the first song, ‘The Sea’, Robin shared how happy he was to be playing with the band again - pointing out he did only a handful of full line-up shows in the past 4 or 5 years. You know what to do when the new album will be out, Mr. Proper-Sheppard. And he was right, ‘The Sea’ sounded brilliant. We were warned that this was going to be a quiet show evolving into a really loud night. And he was right. In particular Adam Franklin seemed to have a special mission to comfort us for missing the Thurston Moore gig. His guitar was indie rocking as if this wasn't Sophia but - just to say something - Swervedriver opening for Sonic Youth. A certain 'Astrid from Liège' will certainly regret having missed this show... ‘Are You Happy Now’ was inserted in the set list because it's one of her favorite songs.
‘The Desert Song No. 2’ turned out to be the turning point towards the heavier sound, leading into ‘Darkness’ (to my own shame, Robin had to recall after the gig this was not a new song, but one from People Are Like Seasons) and ‘Oh My Love’. Half an hour earlier, Robin had explained how well this band fits together and that he could almost take a step back and watch them play. We got an unintended example of this during ‘Oh My Love’: his guitar went KO due to a battery problem, and while Robin seemed to be stressing about it (understandable...), the band picked up the song and continued playing. Nice to see (even if the song was eventually cut). To compensate and while waiting for a new set of batteries, we got a stripped version of ‘Death Of A Salesman’. The harder part of the set ended with ‘If A Change Is Gonna Come’ from the May Queens era and ‘The River Song’ (I can't recall a Sophia set that did not end with this tune?!).
As was the case for the two Belgian gigs this spring, Sophia returned to surprise the audience with two new songs. ‘The Drifter’ and ‘It's Easy To Be Lonely’ really make us expect the best for the forthcoming (?) new album. Somehow I had hoped to hear one or two more new songs this evening, but in a way the set was perfectly balanced. Let's keep the new songs for the next tour, sometime in 2015, Robin?
Christophe Demunter, 06/11/2014
We got to the venue around 8pm so we had already missed a bit of the opener, but his music as it turned out, was not our cup of tea anyway so after listening to 2 songs we stepped outside for a well-deserved drink and smoke. We did not bother to head back in until Sophia took the stage.
The concert was in a nice room, with wooden floors and wall panels, all contributing to a warm sound. The Concert was billed as day 1 of their Singer/Songwriter festival, and was set up with a 7 or 8 rows of seats and some open space around and behind them. This set up worked really well for the opener as it was very, very, quiet music. I think the organizers were expecting something similar from Sophia, which in the last few years was mainly Robin Proper-Sheppard and his guitar. I saw one of those shows a few years ago, and it was great, but not as great or maybe simply not comparable to a full band show, which this turned out to be. Early on in the show Robin mentioned that this one of maybe handful of band shows they had done in the past few years, and as such it was really a treat to be there!
They started of relatively quiet with The Sea, So Slow, Are you Happy Now, If only, and Ship in the Sand, so far it was a nice and easy going Sophia show, each song heavily applauded, by the sitting crowd. Robin seemed to be in quite a good mood, talking a bit and sharing a few jokes with the small but interested crowd. Not sure how many got the God Machine reference he made when moving on to Razor Blades, and how people sometimes misunderstand the lyrics. For me Razor Blades was also the song that really kicked the show up a notch, with an almost brutal ending.
With the Desert Song No. 2 the show had turned into a complete rock show, and this just got us grooving really hard to the music, despite the fact that most of the people were sitting we had a blast dancing around on the right side of the room. Darkness was almost eerie and hauntingly beautiful.
Now came the premier of the evening, Sophia cutting a track short. The song started with a bit of a glitch, and it was clear right away that something was of with Robin’s guitar, and about halfway into the track he just stopped it altogether, as the battery had died in his guitar. Apparently something that rarely if ever happens, stopping a track in the middle, and it was a bit of a shame actually as they were just about to jam really hard when Robin ended it. But every negative thing is usually balanced by something positive, which turned out to be Death of a Salesman, in a completely unplugged version, Robin standing on the edge of the stage, missing the melody 4 or 5 times before busting the track out to a completely quiet venue, where no one wanted to miss a single sound.
With a fresh battery in the guitar they picked up the pace again with the track Pace, and finished the set with very powerful and grooving renditions of If a change is gonna Come, and the River Song, both an absolute kick in the nuts for the crowd that probably got everything they did not expect this evening! Me on the other hand I was happy as a kid on Christmas morning, I went in with no expectations, but with the hope of a band show, and Sophia delivered just that! As powerful, and as intense as they were in the 90’s.
A massive round of applause brought them back out for a 2 song encore, 2 new tracks, the Drifter, which Robin introduced with a friends’ reference that he was surprised that it took him 20 years to write a track called the drifter. A powerful song that you can look forward to on the upcoming album, just as It’s Easy to be Lonely with which they finished the evening!
Great show! I got everything I hope for and maybe even a little more! Billed as Singer/Songerwriter Festival, Sophia shows up as full band, kicking some serious ass! Love it that Robin and company are still good for a surprise! And as hard as they rocked last night I think was as hard as back in the God Machine Days, so I am really looking forward to the next tour, and to more Sophia kick ass rock!
Steve Sniukas, 0611/2014, www.stevesniukas.com
Photos by Guido Engler