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Live Review: Sophie Ellis-Bextor – 27th June 2023 – PRYZM, London, UK

4 min read
Pop icon Sophie Ellis-Bextor graces the small @pryzm_kingston stage for a truly memorable evening of acoustic Hana gems, stories and audience interaction! @SophieEB @bandwagonpress @BanquetRecords

She was the queen of lockdown; helping us get through one of the darkest periods in memory with her online Kitchen Disco series brightening up our otherwise gloomy weeks; something that has since become iconic in pop singer Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s illustrious career. Prior to lockdown the singer was already a household name thanks for early noughties hits including Groovejet, Get Over You, Take Me Home and of course, Murder On The Dancefloor; the latter of which was offered to a packed solid Pryzm in the leafy suburbs of Kingston as the musician delivered a brief but absolutely stellar set of songs from new album, Hana with the megahit thrown in for good old nostalgia measure.

Since lockdown Ellis-Bextor has been busy working on new music with longtime musical partner, Ed Harcourt on their 3 album collaboration; ending with the aforementioned collection. Songs from that new record, released at the start of the month and already proving to be a fan favourite amongst such a robust and expansive catalogue, were dished up in a gorgeously stripped back style with the singers accompanied by Harcourt on piano and guitarist, Pablo garnishing the tracks with a sweet strumming to her right.

Played out in sections, Ellis-Bextor – fressed in a puffy armed peach coloured number – opened the night with 4 notables from the Hana record – Breaking The Circle, Everything Is Sweet, Lost In The Sunshine and Until The Wheels Fall Off. Talking to the crowd at length between songs, Ellis-Bextor described her writing as “I usually write from a stalkers perspective” before pushing the tone into more romantic, if not sad territory with the final of the four songs being dedicated to her parents and the singer wiping an emotional tear from her eye. Mentioning the loss of her stepdad, John who passed away in July 2020, the singer told the crowd about a letter her family found about how he wanted his memorial to be and how his passing should be a celebration before dedicating Until The Wheels Fall Off to John. A sentimental and beautifully raw moment for a pop singer more known for dancefloors and nu-disco grooves.

Taking moments to reflect on the record and its Japanese influence (Hana means Blossom, she would at one point tell the crowd), anicdotes were told and memories shared about the influence Tokyo had on the release; the third location to inspire her studio records with Harcourt with previous album Familia carrying a Latin American flavour and the eastern European dressing of 2014’s Wanderlust making the collaboration a global musical accomplishment.

Her voice was as crisp and of record quality as you would hope for; a delight and surprise given her confession to lack of sleep after a career highlight of playing the Pyramid Stage of the recent Glastonbury Festival.

Inviting a friend of hers on stage to ask a range of questions that centred around the release of Hana, Ellis-Bextor and Harcourt spike fondly of their writing process and the dynamics of their musical partnership; Harcourt very quickly pointing to Ellis-Bextor when posed with the question of who “wears the trousers” in the partnership.

Back to another musical segment the pop icon offered beautiful renditions of Young Blood and Wild Forever; the latter getting a clapping accompaniment from the audience. It was of course the singers massive global hit, Murder On The Dancefloor, however that was the obvious highlight of the night; stripped back to its raw and exposed acoustic bones and almost every member of the audience at one point or another holding their phones in the air to record the incredible moment as Ellis-Bextor pranced the small Pryzm stage and giggled at her own playful dance moves.

Back to question time and it was the audience’s turn to shoot some questions to the leading lady of the night. Questions ranged from how she manages to juggle being a world famous pop star and her role as a mother through to how she connects emotionally to her songs and even being given a jar of pickles and a t-shirt from a member of the crowd who is organising a tuk-tuk ride across India with the singers music as their sole accompaniment – a challenge even Ellis-Bextor confessed may make them a little crazy. Whatever question was thrown at her, she provided a thorough response and was a complete and genuine open book…and a humble one too; many times shifting the compliments or gratitude to Harcourt and his work on the songs being performed throughout the night.

Closing the night we were delighted with Tokyo; a soft ballad with whispery vocals and a gently guitar picked melody that was written about a trip taken by the singer but “carried an undercurrent of sadness” due to the trip initially being for her now late-Stepfather.

Sophie Ellis-Bextor is a pop star who sits at a level unaccompanied by many others. A powerfully emotive songwriter, talented dancefloor hitmaker and highly skilled vocalist, there is a reason she has been a pop staple for the last twenty years and that was all shown and heard last night in the 90 minutes she graced the quaint West London venue.