It was our first visit to Sofia Live Club and – I'm pleased to say – we were in good company on the night of April 30 for the Chanson Classic evening. US ambassador James Warlick, he of the low diplomatic profile, was dancing just a few metres from our table, enjoying the performance of the Mihail Yossifov sextet (whom we have profiled before in The Sofia Echo) & Sentimental Swingers.
Sofia Live Club opened in 2009 and has proved a popular venue for both solo acts and big band concerts. Formerly known as Cafe Theatre in the communist era, then disco club Neron during the transition, the club has now been completely revamped with seats for 270 people. A nice touch is the screen in the adjacent bar where revellers can retreat to if they want a break but still see the show. Acoustics and lighting are of excellent standard.
We arrived at 10pm but we waited some time for the event to actually begin. That enabled us to savour the atmosphere and enjoy the complimentary rose wine. We liked the club's spaciousness and stylishness as well as the elegant turnout of Sofia's bohemian crowd – well dressed and alluring without being too in-your-face. I must say, if you did not know that Bulgaria was supposedly one of the European Union's poorest members, you would never have guessed it from the immaculately attired crowd here!
The venue was no-smoking but only, we were told, following the musicians' request. It would probably be better to make that a permanent arrangement – the non-smoking feature I mean.
When the performance started all the standing guests started "jigging" around but actually I derived almost as much pleasure from watching some of the dancers in the audience as I did from the excellent show. It was also nice to see the three ladies being made up in the entrance hall before they went on stage, making the audience feel as though we were on intimate acquaintance with them.
The trio gave renditions of swinging American jazz classics from the 1930s, 40s and 50s: Shoo Shoo Baby, Tico Tico and Rum & Coca Cola by the Andrews Sisters. There were were also French classics like Edith Piaf's Non Je Ne Regrette Rien, Je Ne Veux Pas Travailler and La Vie En Rose and I Will Wait For You (from the musical The Umbrellas of Cherbourg).
I'm a bit of an old fuddy-duddy (when I was 18 I once queued up to hear a Howard Keel concert) so the selection was fine by me. The singers' costumes fitted the mood – sexy white marine uniforms marked by retro style: scarlet red lips, sleek hairstyles and corsets. (Two of the girls are actually steady singers in their own groups called Phuture Shok and Nasekomix). The overall package was very enjoyable – perhaps only the choreography could have been refined.
The show continued until the early hours. By a quarter to one we decided to take our leave because we had to be up early the following day, although we would gladly have stayed on. And, for once, I seemed, being on the press table, to have a better view than the ambassador!
Thank you to Elly Petrousheva for organising this enjoyable evening for us.
The evening's complete "cast" was as follows: Mihail Yossifov sextet members are Mihail Yossifov (trumpet), Atanas Hadjiev (tenor sax), Velislav Stoyanov (trombone), Vasil Spassov (piano), Dimitar Shanov (bass), Dimitar Dimitrov (drums); Sentimental Swingers are Andronia Popova, Dessislava Andonova and Vera Chandelle; special guests Neno Iliev (accordion) and Mihail Yossifov (guitar).
Sofia Live Club National Palace of Culture Open Mon to Sun, 8pm to 7am
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