I was at the Bush Hall gig last night to see Sophia. I was disappointed if I am honest.
To start with the positives:
Adam Franklin def added something last night in terms of his guitar work. If I remember correctly, the last two times I saw Sophia I don't think he played. (Or if he did he didn't stand out.) AF was subtle in what he did but creative with it too. He wasn't playing by 'wrote' so to speak.
Astrid also sang really well and doubled up on keyboards. She has great stage presence and it would be interesting to see her live in her own right.
The support act, William Fitzsimmons, was a revelation. His songs were really good and he dealt with the audience in a gracious and self-effacing manner, which went down really well.
I think a lot went wrong last night too. Robin broke a string after the second song. (Which he can't really be blamed for.) The lyrical phrasing in Desert Song No 2 seemed to be off slightly. The band as a whole seemed a little rusty, though Robin did do Heartbreak with just strings.
I was standing at the back and a lot of people left throughout the gig. I was trying to figure out what was going on...
The songs are not the problem. (Although Robin joked after Something that this is when people start screaming out 'Home' or 'Desert Song'.)
I know it's a strange thing to say but I think Robin paid too much attention to his friends and the people who have supported Sophia for a long time. There was nothing there that was all encompassing. As a result, anyone who hadn't heard off or been to a Sophia gig before probably felt excluded. At one point Robin asked how many English people where in the room and he counted four. I know he was only joking (he had Welsh and Itailian friends present) but this could have came across pretty badly. It might have sounded like a knawing resentment for Sophia's lack of recognition in England. I noticed a few English girls leave after that. (They were originally standing beside me outside. One friend trying to convince the other how good Sophia was.)
One of Robin's Italian friends spoke to me outside the gig too. He pointed to the Sophia sign and asked, 'Is that Robin Proper-Sheppard? You know he is my friend.' Then he talked about how there was no coverage in the English press for the new album. (I even tried writing something myself!)
It reminded me of what the writer and journalist Will Self talked about the night before in Camden. He said the press' commercial interests dictate what is written about these days, with the result that words are no longer free. Picking up from that, the only way then for Sophia to get coverage in the UK is to create a vibe so the press jump on the band wagon. (Not visa-versa.)
I read an interview recently with Malcolm Middleton and he said that anyone who was commercially successful these days had sold their soul in some way. I can't help but disagree. This sounds too much like self-rightousness. It's too easy to start pointing the finger at others when you do not have the level of success that you might wish for. In truth Sophia and Middleton are brilliant artists. You just can't be defeatist when things don't work out. You just have to re-think your approach.
The thing to do is engage with the wider audience and get the vibe working. That's what happened with punk in the early eighties and grunge in the nineties.
It was a shame considering I travelled the whole way from Belfast. I have such huge respect for this band and I felt that they were not up to scratch.