Soccer Mommy at the O2 Forum, Kentish Town, 22 September 2022

I went up to Kentish Town last Thursday to see Soccer Mommy for the second time this month, having seen them recently at End of the Road. They were good there, very dynamic; but I thought this would be a chance to enjoy the show in a bit more depth. Soccer Mommy is the vehicle of singer and guitarist Sophie Allison, from Nashville. You could file her under indie or singer-songwriter, and as she progresses, maybe even grunge – 2020s pop-style. I first came across her in 2018, when she released her first full album Clean. Prior to that she’d released two compilations, For Young Hearts in 2016 and Collection in 2017. Clean had a lo-fi indie sound and some trenchant lyrics about life as a young woman. The stand out track was the defiant Your Dog, but there were also some lovely, wistful melodies, and these led me back to some of her earlier songs like Switzerland, Allison and Waiting for Cars, as well as the sprightly Henry. She played a very successful show at the Moth Club in Hackney early in 2018 and in November that year I really enjoyed her performance supporting Kacey Musgraves at Wembley Arena. One of the highlights of that show was her cover of Brice Springsteen’s I’m On Fire. She imbued that song of love and frustration with a tenderness that gave it a new perspective.

Her second album, Color Theory came out in 2020. The stand out track on that was Circle the Drain, a melodic rocker that belied the despairing lyrics. I never really got into the album, though recent listens have inevitably revealed more. And this year we have a new album, Sometimes, Forever. Again, I rather skated over this one until the last couple of weeks. It’s the rockiest, most grungy album yet – a real 90s sound. I could even hear elements of The Bends-era Radiohead. But with repeated listens, you locate the melodies and realise that it’s not so different to Clean and the earlier tracks after all.

The concert at the Forum featured the new album heavily. The band have been touring Europe, reaching Britain just recently – as well as doing that EOTR show. The setlist has been the same as far as I could see; nine songs from Sometimes, Forever, four from Color Theory and just the one, Your Dog, from Sophie’s earlier music. As at EOTR, I liked the performance, the full sound, the sense that Sophie has really worked out how she wants to play live. You do lose a bit of the new songs’ subtlety in the rock sound; and I felt that had she mixed it up a bit more, not relying so much on the new songs, she might have got a more lively response from the crowd. There was a surprise – a very welcome one – when she added a couple more songs from Clean towards the end of the show: the ballad Still Clean (which she performed solo) and Scorpio Rising. They gave the audience a boost at just the right moment, and that energy flowed through the rest of the concert.

If I ever found myself giving advice to a band that is getting more popular with each album I would say, don’t give up on your old tunes. They are likely to be the ones that people are coming for. Give them some new songs of course; but letting them dominate a show won’t make people rush out to buy (or stream) them. Their memory of the show will be better if you give them the old favourites too, and that will make them more likely to listen to your new stuff. I can understand why artists want to move on, but when you are playing live I think you need to respond to your audience’s needs. This doesn’t apply just to Soccer Mommy, but just about anyone. Rare is the band whose audience laps up five new tracks in a row at the start of a concert, as happened at Radiohead’s brilliant Roundhouse concert in 2016. The rest of the set that night was rich in classics from throughout their career.

Anyway, the addition of Still Clean and Scorpio Rising made a real difference to the dynamic of the show, and the momentum was sustained by the excellent Still, newdemo and Yellow is the Colour of her Eyes (the latter being the second best song on Color Theory). The encore began almost immediately – the band had started surprisingly late (9.30) and I think they suddenly realised they were running out of time. Maybe those two extra songs were a spur-of-the-moment thing. The first song was Sophie’s most Nirvana-like song yet, Don’t Ask Me; then the Soccer Mommy anthem, Your Dog closed the show on a high. We all went away happy – especially if we’d had time to listen to the new album.

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
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1 Response to Soccer Mommy at the O2 Forum, Kentish Town, 22 September 2022

  1. Dood says:

    100,001st view?

    I agree with your advice about mixing the old and the new. Most of our greatest musical heroes and heroines accept this, I think – though one wonders how Thom can always summon up the energy for Paranoid Android, or Bruce for Born To Run. Do these anthems, however legendary, ever simply become stale to the artists?

    A different scenario, of course, is when musicians want to move on decisively to new pastures – and this is partly implied in your review of Soccer Mommy. There are, I think, extreme cases of singers and bands essentially abandoning their back catalogue, but this is a perilous path – the new material has to be truly engaging to avoid the risk of indifference, or indeed serious disappointment.

    It sounds as if Soccer Mommy was leaning that way at your gig, then plunged into the backlist again to deliver up some trusted favourites? A smart move, I think.

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