Sophie Ellis-Bextor soars in a spine-tingling show at the London Palladium
For many, the name Sophie Ellis-Bextor probably brings back fond memories of dancing in naughties nightclubs. But tonight at the London Palladium, the singer shows a smoother side to her sound, revamping her greatest hits through rich, airy strings and proving definitively that recycling really is the way forward. Despite being 40, the artist’s musical career spans five decades: the 70s and 80s, the origin of her disco and electronic influences; the 90s, when she rose to prominence as frontwoman for indie band Theaudience; the 2000s, when she launched the solo career that made her a household name; and now the teenies, her renaissance.
The singer’s latest album, The Song Diaries, is a compilation of solo singles recorded with an orchestral ensemble, who accompany the star on stage tonight, complete with a conductor. The show starts with passion as pacey syncopated strings bring us into an atmospheric classical rendition of her iconic Spiller cover Groovejet. This first section is seated, and yet the affection of the crowd is palpable as the artist explains her reasons for the new orchestral release. But in reality, the music speaks for itself. Ellis-Bextor’s vocals really come to the fore in Youngblood, her voice soaring in a spine-tingling chorus. Music Gets the Best of Me is another highlight; this stripped back version is fragile but also more fluid – the singer sways with the music, her shimmering blue dress floating around her in an ethereal fashion.
If this first segment is proof that old favourites can be made anew, the second half of the setlist proves that even in its original form, this material has lasted the test of time. The audience rise straight to their feet as the artist returns in a striking sequined hot pink dress with elegant feather trim, ready to rouse us with some nu-disco nostalgia. Ellis-Bextor gets the crowd going immediately with the sensual Bittersweet, her irresistible trademark cocktail of catchy tunes and classy moves reminding us exactly why she has remained a pop icon. The second rendition of Groovejet is a joyous singalong, this time performed with all its bouncy energy, Ellis-Bextor jumping along with the music and encouraging the audience to join her. A special cover of Don’t Leave Me This Way rises to a glorious climax, topped only by crowd favourite and decade-defining Murder on the Dancefloor. An encore of Theaudience’s A Pessimist Is Never Disappointed rewinds us back to 1998 and the start of her career, ending on an ironically optimistic note by showing us just how far she has come in 20 years.
Though Ellis-Bextor might not be bringing any huge innovation to the table, tonight her remakes of covers prove that a single composition has the capacity to keep evolving through the ages, and this reviewer can’t wait to see where her music takes us in the years to come.
Photos: Virginie Viche
For further information and future events visit Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s website here.
Watch the video for Groovejet (Orchestral Version) here: