Friday, 22 October 2021

REVIEW: Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Henley Festival

REVIEW: Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Henley Festival

Sophie Ellis-Bextor | Henley Festival | Friday, September 17

“YOU want to go where?” asked my mother in disbelief. “RADA,” I replied, as firmly and coolly as any 13-year-old girl could muster. “The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts.”

“But don’t you need talent to go there?” she replied.

My heart sank and I admitted she had a point. I could neither sing nor dance. I accepted that my only path to pop stardom was going to be as one of the crowd.

Now, ahem, a few years on, I love the Henley Festival with a passion and one of my favourite ladies, Sophie Ellis-Bextor, was going to be performing.

The tannoy summoned us and like truculent teenagers we filed somewhat slowly into our seats.

Suddenly, the music started and the tinkle of familiar notes filled the air. Where was she? We’re ready now and eager! Cue Sophie, who swayed her way across the stage, barely glancing at us, to the tune Take Me Home (A Girl Like Me).

The crowd, myself included, roared: “Take me home!”

Now any girl that hasn’t had this thought has not lived. Followed by the lines “I know somewhere you can unwind” and “It’s gonna happen anyway”, Take Me Home is all about the anticipation.

Sophie, in the space of a few moments, had cunningly and coyly hooked us.

Pink frothiness and fluff. High heels and girl-skipping across the stage. “I’m in heaven,” she sang. Well, so was I. Sophie may not have known it but I was her self-appointed unique support act and loving every moment.

I’d like to take some credit for encouraging the audience to dance, but Sophie I hand it all to you. Your effervescent energy seeped through the music-thirsty crowds and as I glanced around there was not a face that was not smiling. You were enjoying yourself and so were we.

Next you promised to take us to Ibiza and off we all went, swirling away in the magical moment as Sophie delivered Crying at the Discotheque’s immortal refrain: “The golden years, the silver tears, you wore a tie like Richard Gere.”

The couple in front of me could contain themselves no more and broke free into the aisle to dance, as did others. Rows upon rows of young and old, clapping their hands high in the air, gyrating to the beat, caught in the euphoric atmosphere.

You see, it felt so good. Eighteen months of musical-dryness and here we all were, loving it. The crowds were high on your performance, Sophie, you made us feel good — and that was before you’d even performed Murder on the Dancefloor. My god, could we take any more?

Sophie had dispatched us all into a whipped-up, dancing-singing frenzy that might’ve warranted a crowd acceptance to RADA — and boy we’d needed it. What a performance. What an immense release of pent-up energy that exploded across Henley last Friday night.

Amanda Stewart

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