Friday, June 30
HANA Album Launch, Lafayette London
Twenty five years after breaking into the UK charts as lead singer with the audience, Sophie Ellis-Bextor returned to the Top 10 earlier this month with her seventh solo album, ‘HANA’.
Inspired by a family trip to Tokyo, Japan in February 2020 and completed with collaborator Ed Harcourt – with whom she worked on previous LPs ‘Wanderlust’ (2014) and ‘Familia’ (2016) – the LP conjures a dreamworld of wonder and emotions, which was brought to life as the pop icon graced the stage at London’s Lafayette for an intimate launch show.
Opening with the wistful A Thousand Orchids – the first song on the record – backed by a stellar band including Ed and her husband, The Feeling’s Richard Jones, she segued into lead track Breaking The Circle and delivered singalong renditions of the singles Everything Is Sweet and Lost In The Sunshine.
Playing the album in full and largely in sequence, Sophie sprinkled nuggets of storytelling between tracks, from poignant anecdotes on the passing of her stepdad while introducing Until The Wheels Fall Off and the realisation of ageing on Reflections, to humorous anecdotes about the otherworldly inspiration behind closing number We’ve Been Watching You.
Tapping into the uptempo beats of Beyond The Universe and He’s A Dreamer, along with the theatricality of the stellar Hearing In Colour – a highlight of the new material when brought to life on stage – Sophie let loose and worked the crowd with her signature shimmy, adorned in a stunning pink floral dress for the bulk of the set.
Behind her on the stage was the neon Kanji for ‘HANA’; an important element of the design of the record, she explained, as the word, which translates as ‘blossom’, can also mean ‘nose’ – a mistake she was keen to avoid in featuring the symbol.
Closing out the main set with the final track on the LP, Sophie changed into a playful yellow look for a whistle-stop tour of her biggest hits and fan favourites, opening with recent single Hypnotized and touching on Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer), Crying At The Discotheque and, of course, Murder On The Dancefloor.
In the biggest surprise of the night, she also dug out her Top 10 2003 hit I Won’t Change You; a track for which she’s made no secret of her disliking but, after playing it for the first time in “about 20 years”, admitted she’s “warming to”.
Closing out the evening, Sophie headed to the balcony of the venue for a stripped-back serenade of the acoustic Tokyo, bringing the focus of the night back to her latest collection and proving her an unstoppable performer who can transition between synth-pop, high energy dance, driving rock and tender ballads with ease, and reaffirming her status as a true pop icon.
Setlist: Sophie Ellis Bextor – HANA Launch Show, Lafayette London
1. A Thousand Orchids
2. Breaking The Circle
3. Until The Wheels Fall Off
4. Everything Is Sweet
5. Lost In The Sunshine
6. Beyond The Universe
7. He’s A Dreamer
9. Hearing In Colour
10. Broken Toy
11. We’ve Been Watching You
13. I Won’t Change You
14. Crying At The Discotheque (Alcazar cover)
15. Heartbreak (Make Me A Dancer)
16. Murder On The Dancefloor