Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s Christmas Kitchen Disco, Eventim Apollo, review: The singer has found her calling

Now more than 20 years on from her first flourish of chart success, Ellis-Bextor has found her niche as an expert curator of good times

“It felt borderline punk rock to start this tour in November,” said Sophie Ellis-Bextor of the all-singing, all-dancing Christmas adaptation of her Kitchen Disco, the lockdown glitterball party sensation she live-streamed on Instagram during the depths of the pandemic.

But it’s December now, so everything about this seamlessly pitched 90-minute festive bonanza made perfect sense: the band in Santa hats; the tinsel around the microphone stand; the saxophone player dressed as an elf; the Christmas trees; even, to fittingly pantomime groans, the Christmas cracker-style gags. “What did Oppenheimer get Barbie for Christmas? Ken-etic energy!”

After an ill-suited stint in 90s indie band Theaudience and now more than 20 years on from her first flourish of chart success, Ellis-Bextor has found her calling as an expert curator of good times.

On “very much home turf” (she went to school down the road in Hammersmith), she skilfully mixed homespun comfiness – both her husband, Richard Jones of The Feeling, and brother are in the band; she dedicated one song to her recently engaged sister; her young kids joined her for the deathless disco-banger “Murder on the Dancefloor” via an illuminated reindeer sledge – with Christmas fun, and no little camp.

She started the evening’s opener, a cover of Leroy Anderson’s “Sleigh Ride”, famously covered by The Ronettes, sat atop a huge white horse with an Aladdin Sane-style lightning bolt cross its face.

LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Sophie Ellis-Bextor performs at Eventim Apollo on December 05, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Robin Little/Redferns)
Sophie Ellis-Bextor on stage in Hammersmith (Photo: Robin Little/Redferns)

During an acoustic “Lost in the Sunshine” a silver glittery cocktail bar was wheeled on so she could drink a Negroni. Some tracks were chosen by Ellis-Bextor spinning a multi-coloured wheel of fortune – actually an old Elvis Costello trick – stacked with 24 songs on it.

She seemed faintly underwhelmed when her 2007 track “Catch You”, the rockiest song in the set, came up (“a nice little pop song about stalking”), but was much happier later (as were the crowd) when the wheel threw up Lionel Ritchie’s “All Night Long (All Night)”, which the band gave a blaring brass climax.

As expected, her song curation was very well judged. The show’s mix of Christmas, disco, pop, dance, original material and covers could have felt slightly disjointed. But the parts came together joyfully, like a selection box of fun.

Led by an effervescent, swirling, two-stepping, hi-kicking Ellis-Bextor, the Christmas staples – faithful but fun takes on the likes of Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and Shakin’ Stevens’ “Merry Christmas Everyone” – were peppered among pop standards (a version of “Like a Prayer” that bettered what Madonna could muster on her recent tour) and her own dance-pop stompers like “Get Over You”.

Segueing Ibiza classic number one smash “Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love)” into The Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrapping” and back again was a particularly clever touch.

By the encore, the night was as Christmas as mince pies. The Feeling frontman Dan Gillespie Sells joined for a heartfelt take on “Fairytale of New York” (“for Shane and Kirsty”).

Ellis-Bextor played the Glockenspiel opening to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas is You”, by which point the sparkly, festive crowd had long been dancing in the aisles.

Unexpectedly, they were joined by Ellis-Bextor, who ended the night by singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” unamplified from the balcony, joined by violins.

It was a lovely end to the most festive of shows.

Touring to 14 Dec (

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