Sophie Ellis-Bextor : Scala

She doesn't possess the personality to carry her first live gig as Sophie Ellis-Bextor, but she tries

Sophie Ellis-Bextor is a pop star. Discuss. Well, she sings pop songs which aren’t very popular, was involved in somebody else’s Number One hit single last summer and is the daughter of a woman who used to appear on children’s television 20 years ago. Her first band, Theaudience, enjoyed limited attention in these pages. Hey, there have been pop stars with poorer credentials.

What is clear, though, is that S E-B is a smart, cool, strikingly beautiful celebrity who brightens the pages of any newspaper. She gives great copy too, and knows where the cameras are. The intonation of her characterful voice suggests at all times that she’s thoroughly bored with whatever it is she’s been told to do by her record company, and that includes singing the songs written for her doomed debut album, ‘Read My Lips’. But then, anyone with half a brain would balk at the task of having to perform this kind of derivative, soulless sludge, a grim amalgam of several fashionable musical styles which ends up sounding like a lobotomised Zoot Woman.

Is it Sophie’s fault that her songs are shit? Probably not. She doesn’t possess the personality to carry her first live gig as Sophie Ellis-Bextor, but she tries, with her quaint I’m-a-little-teapot moves and moments sat demurely on the chaise longue, to invest these frigid Blondie B-sides with some sort of meaning. When she sings [I]”I’m gonna be your lover”[/I] or [I]”Believe me, you’re the only one”[/I], she does so utterly without conviction. At least in Theaudience she sang lyrics that were of interest and relevance to her.

We’d like to believe that Sophie, at 21, is considerably more than an easily malleable Polydor puppet, a media-friendly mannequin upon whom can be hung whatever image is in vogue in any given week. Still, it must be a thrill to perform while standing on a giant photo of your head, as she does tonight, while the funky pink and silver décor around you resembles a [I]Top Of The Pops[/I] stage from 1984. And to fleetingly reveal beneath your black dress and golden sash a pair of satin red knickers during ‘Take Me Home’, well, that’ll be something for this sold-out crowd, who only clap because it stops them from yawning, to talk about.

If you can’t do it when you’re young, Sophie once observed, when can you do it? That’s true. But if you are going to do it, please, do it well.

Piers Martin