Sophie Ellis-Bextor - Preston Guildhall - 17.01.02

Who exactly is Sophie Ellis Bextor? Is she the glamorous front woman of a moderately successful indie band called the Audience? A lads mag pin-up model? Style guru or solo pop star? The answer is all of the above. Like all great artists Sophie knows how to successfully re-invent herself and this transformation couldn't have been more apparent in the Summer of 2000 when she beat Victoria Beckham to the Number 1 spot with Spiller's Groovejet. This was to prove to be her first stepping stone to stardom.

Tonight, the first night of the last tour which Sophie will undertake to promote her "Read My Lips" album. As if from nowhere Sophie appears on stage in one of here many elegant poses looking like a pop Princess dressed to perfection in a sexy black outfit she oozes sophistication from every pore. With her lovely red hair and amazing figure she looks a million dollars. Thankfully she also has a strong voice and natural stage presence. "Take Me Home" kicks off the the show and many of her male fans in the audience would have taken her up on the offer given half the chance. Dispelling rumours of prima-dona tendencies Sophie smiles, flirts and moves around the stage with the confidence and panache of a seasoned pro. Her backing band deserve mentioning as they really add to the occasion and allow Sophie to come into her own and go to prove that she's not just another manufactured pop puppet. Still the crowd are a little too well behaved only really reacting when the hits are played despite the fact that album tracks "Move This Mountain" and title track "Read My Lips" sound even better live and have an electrifying impact.

She's not just a disco diva is our Sophie. Oh no she can belt out a ballad with ease. "By Chance" is simply voice and acoustic guitar and is a mellow sumptuous song. "Is It Any Wonder" also benefits from a restrained sparse arrangement. For the encore Sophie attempts Talking Heads "Once In A Lifetime". An odd choice as the song doesn't really suit her voice and the less said about her costume change the better. Predictably she finishes with the floor filler "Murder On The Dancefloor" with her well spoken voice and precise diction always raising a smile when she sings the line "Gonna burn this goddamn house right down". The perfect way to end the show from one of this country's best female solo performers!!!

Nicholas Paul Godkin

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