Moments before SOPHIE and her collaborators took the stage, men with J-cloths crawled on their hands and knees to polish the black vinyl flooring. The audience, packed shoulder to shoulder, chatted away in anticipation, hiking up fishnets, readjusting tilted wigs and pulling glitter compacts out of Björk tote bags. Violent strobes began to pulse, and in one of the brief moments of darkness before the stage was set alight, someone next to me blurted out in utter adoration: "This bitch is crazy!"
What followed was an explosion of flesh and PVC and hyperkinetic sound. Most of the songs were backing tracks accompanied by live vocals from collaborator Cecile Believe (formally Mozart's Sister), though there were points when SOPHIE controlled what was going on and off from what looked like a sampler wheeled around on a three-tiered cart. But this wasn't a display of button pushing or technical ability. It was pure performance art. Dancers Sigrid Lauren and Monica Mirabile of American duo Fluct choreographed the show, and were onstage moving to the maximalist sounds. SOPHIE floated in and out amidst quick costume changes. She was the ringleader in a circus that spilled forth from the stage, inviting the audience to join in the melee.
SOPHIE interspersed familiar singles like "Faceshopping" and "Ponyboy" with deeper cuts from her highly anticipated new album, Whole New World. Easily the evening's most affecting moment was "It's Okay To Cry," which she sang alone in a floor-length red ballgown. The song's message shone through, communicated with an urgency and tenderness that was hard to miss. Looking out on the crowd of young faces singing along in earnest, the ringleader became the caretaker, the wise best friend.
It took SOPHIE a long time into her nine-year career to decide that live performance was going to be a part of it. Her presentation was proof that this was no afterthought. Instead, it was a carefully thought out constellation of collaborations—between the audience and the performers, but also onstage, between SOPHIE, Lauren, Mirabile and Believe. They gave us sisterhood, and every beautiful, gaudy, sexy, technical, performative, intimate and grotesque moment that goes with it.
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