It’s been just over a year since I saw my first Soraia show; they were headlining that night. Another band I had been dying to see live was opening for them on a Thursday night about two hours away. EW. A WEEKNIGHT. I had to get up early for work the next day and had already convinced myself I was leaving as soon as the opening band I came to see was done, having never heard of the headliner that evening. WOW. Was I sure glad I stayed. From the moment they took the stage that fateful school night a year ago, I was hooked and couldn’t get enough. Even in the past 12 months, the band has come such a long way and constantly seems to be bettering themselves and on-the-rise. Last month at their hometown record release of Evergreen at Philadelphia’s MilkBoy, the band played what was their best set, yet.
Soraia—consisting of Travis Smith on bass, Bri Sig on drums, Mike Reisman on guitar, Shane Reimer on (the other) guitar and guest keyboardist, John Hildenbrand—worked up a jam into the first song as singer ZouZou Mansour strode through the packed house, strutting onto stage in a black leather studded jacket, mesh star-patterned top and a sequined silver skirt with a Bowie-esque Aladdin Sane blue lightning bolt down the front. Swaying back-n-forth, hands raised, greeting the crowd, ZouZou approached the microphone as the jam climaxed, shouting “A-TWO, THREE, FOUR” and “Love Like Voodoo” was off to an explosive start, searing guitars kicking in. A little over half-way through during a guitar solo, Mansour pulled out one of her famous backbends toward the crowd—the first of many that night!!—flipping back up and sliding her jacket off in a fluid motion. When she turned around to face the crowd, the previously hidden fringes on her top’s sleeves were out in full-force as she held the microphone in one hand, and threw windmills with the other; a very Tina Turner moment the MilkBoy crowd needed.
The band wasted no time hitting the crowd with the latest single, “Evergreen“, back-to-back with it’s b-side, a David Bowie cover of “Rebel Rebel“. For having the single out less than 24 hours, many of the die-hard Soraia Fiends (the preferred term for the band’s fanbase) already had the lyrics down, singing the choruses back with heart. ZouZou’s huntress presence on stage was inspiring particularly during this new song, striking powerful poses and singing the fiery lyrics with conviction. “What’s it gonna be, Philadelphia?” she snarled as the song ended, slipping the city into the closing lyric on the song. Let me tell you, Philadelphia needed more and they were sure to let Soraia know with their applause.
“Rebel Rebel“ started off with slowed down light guitar work, ZouZou delivering a slightly subdued vocal…until the chorus, when she growled, “YA TACKY THING, YA PUT THEM ON, YEAH!” and the stage erupted with the entire band kicking in at once. Fringes went flying again as Mansour used the tambourine to get the crowd clapping along to the classic. Similar to a live version Bowie played back in the day, it was a rollicking good tribute-cover that David himself would most certainly have loved along to with the entirety of MilkBoy that night. On a side note…Soraia did a stupendous job capturing that live energy on the actual b-side/studio recorded version, as well!
During Soraia’s next number, ZouZou contorted her body like a possessed bellydancer of sorts with rapid jerk-motion movements about her; which seemed appropriate, seeing as it was set to the bands 2017 single, Monster. While I love the MilkBoy venue for its intimacy with artists, I would say it really is not the ideal setting for onstage acrobatics. However, Mansour tested this theory and proved that you actually CAN! Placing one silver/gold sparkling shoe atop Bri’s drum kit followed by the other, holding her arms out, like some sort of celestial, shinning bat woman, more shimmying and shaking took place. The engaging frontwoman then came back to the crowd, leaning on one attendee’s head while staring daggers into our captive hearts as she sang, all the while Reisman and Reimer shredding with a sense of urgency.
Soraia’s single release show was shaping up to be one of epic proportions already, and the next set of new songs added to that feeling with the heavy garage sounds of “Dangerous” and very danceable “Superman is Gone”. Travis shines on the latter of the two, laying down a fat bassline that had the entire house movin’ and groovin’. Sandwiched in between, ZouZou had her first bit of banter with the audience, asking how everyone’s summer had been (awwww!); as it turns out, hers was kind of shitty (booooo!). But, in a way that only she could pull off, ZouZou was quick to point out that it was in-fact a good summer (yay!) because it was shitty; “because when your back’s against the wall, there’s nowhere to go but up and that’s where I’m goin’, baby! You wanna come with me?” MilkBoy roared with approval at the suggestion as the band carried on with their set.
A special treat was in store for the hometown Soraia crowd, as the band decided to take it down a notch with two acoustic renditions of fan favourites. First up was the 2018 single, “Still I Rise“ which was oft-overshadowed by it’s rip-roaring b-side at the time of its release. A lyrically beautiful song about overcoming adversity and never giving up, I now only want to hear this song acoustic! The already gorgeous vocal harmonies between drummer Sig and singer Mansour are especially highlighted and brought to the front when accompanied by the acoustic guitars. Check out the video below and see for yourself:
After a quick poll of “electric or acoustic,” Soraia dedicated the next acoustic—another rarity to hear live—”Come Down Angel“ to Terri, a friend of the band’s. I spoke with Terri after and she is moved to tears every time the band does play it, often dedicating to her. The highlight was ZouZou’s’ amazingly long note at the finale of the song; whatta set of pipes she has!! You can see the dedication and ear-grabbing performance here:
Picking things back up right where they left off before the acoustic come-down, Soraia performed the funky “Quicksand“ off their 2017 full-length, Dead Reckoning next. Bri’s explosive drum hits and cymbal work are the standout on this live banger every time. After getting to this point in the set, one might think the next new track has a bit of autobiographical context… “Wild Woman“ saw ZouZou snaking about the stage, slithering on everything in sight and bracing herself from the speakers hanging overhead. Finishing out, Mansour howled the chorus “wiiiiiiiild, wiiiiiiiiiild woman” while thrusting her hips enough to make Elvis blush, flanked by Reimer and Reisman. Of course, just how wild of a woman would ZouZou really be if she didn’t venture up onto the drum kit once more—fringes coming close to thwacking Sig in the face—to conclude the new tune? The answer: A Mild Woman!
Another live staple in the Soraia set was up next and chances are, even if you haven’t heard their version, you could almost instantly recognize the sexy, swaggering guitar intro to Chuck Berry’s “Have Love, Will Travel”—first made famous by The Sonics. While having Hildenbrand on keys all night was a special treat and added immensely to the band’s sound overall, John’s skills were best highlighted on this number, adding an organ-like feel to the bluesy rocker. If you have yet to attend a Soraia gig, lead singer ZouZou is not afraid to get up-close and personal with the audience; not even the back corner of the bar will keep you out of her clutches once she saunters off stage and through the crowd. And honestly, she is mesmerizing and makes you want to be involved; become apart of the evening’s energy! I was the lucky victim this time, singing choruses back-n-forth on the mic while the audience backed us.
More new cuts from the forthcoming Wicked Cool Records release, “Dig Your Roots” made appearances, including a bit of a reworked version on Way That You Want It, which the band has been playing live for almost a year, now. The intricacy and layering of guitars during the breakdown was beautiful, building up to Bri’s bombastic re-entry on drums, leading into Mike’s blazing guitar solo. It’s quite a catchy song and I am dying to hear the studio version!
I had heard the next new song once or twice before, a slowed down number Mansour had cited as being about a girl dealing with an identity crisis and the battle of going through it and coming out stronger, if memory serves correctly. This version, while similar, has a quicker tempo being kept, and aside from the choruses, sounds a bit like 90’s No Doubt Gwen Stefani when Bri and ZouZou’s vocals meshed. Regardless of what the song is about, regardless of it’s the slower version from previous gigs or the new recorded version, it will be another great cut to look forward to on the upcoming record next spring.
#THROWITBACK Remember earlier when I spoke on the first acoustic song of this most magical evening, “Still I Rise”? Specifically the “rip-roaring b-side” bit? NO? WELL… DON’T WORRY. DON’T SCROLL BACK UP. I’M GONNA TALK ABOUT IT RIGHT NOW!! Ever since Soraia first performed the New York Dolls song “Trash” at a special tribute concert the other year, everyone that heard it knew it was meant for greatness. When the band was looking for a b-side—they usually pick a cover song—it made the most sense to put this banger out. After recording it and adding it into the live set regularly, it has become a fan favourite. You can tell the band loves doing it too; the joy on ZouZou’s face as the doo-wop style opening switches over into the rollicking main part of the song. She seductively shakes and grabs the mic, almost as if she’s about to pounce on the crowd. Believe it or not, after the breakdown mid-way, the entire band picked the pace up and finished out strong, despite being on stage for over an hour of non-stop performing. Let’s also not this was another shining moment for special guest keyboardist John Hildenbrand, as his presence really added that authentic 70’s psychedelic sound to the cover.
“Beautiful Curse” saw ZouZou standing and delivering front-and-center on the microphone, headbanging to the riff-heavy guitarmonies between Shane and Mike. While the guitarmonies were indeed a thing of beauty, Smith’s terrifically fat bassline was once again highlighted in this song, laying it down steadily throughout; he has never sounded better! Mansour eventually made her way over to the keyboard, comically pointing at the keys as if asking Hildenbrand, “is this the right one? How about this one?” before rolling into the epic one-two punch that is “Cupid Killer” and “Je ne sais quoi“. I call it what it is, as these two songs—both off of the band’s 2017 release, “Dead Reckoning”—are always played back-to-back live and go so well together. During the latter, Mansour got down in front of Reisman as he attempted a guitar solo. ATTEMPTED. Clowning around, her hand reached out to his guitar neck, muting the chords while they both shot the other the middle finger. ZouZou then made her rounds to Hildenbrand, Sig, Reimer and finished up with Smith, playfully taunting each of them before a few one-handed windmills and leading the crowd in clapping along with the heavy-hitting Bri’s beats. The band’s stage chemistry was on-fire; so good, in fact, no one would have guessed it was Shane Reimer’s first Soraia gig! The MilkBoy hometown patrons were loving every second of it, never wanting the night to end.
Of course, every stellar show has to come to an end, and as usual Soraia closed out with a their live staple, “Beggar”. A dirtier bluesy rocker with a slowburn and one of the oldest songs the band has done over the years in its various forms, it’s always a crowd-pleaser to end the night on. You are getting every last ounce of what the band members have to give, pouring out their hearts and souls and leaving it all on the stage. You are getting fiery guitar solos, a thumping beat, a driving bassline, headbanging, hipthrusting (atop the drum kit, no less!), visceral warcries… all culminating in a Fleetwood Mac “The Chain”-style jam where ZouZou again runs into the crowd and gets everyone involved from the front of the stage to the darkest recesses of the room.
The packed MilkBoy house took a while to dissipate after the set, despite being past midnight, but the Soraia kids—being the ever-so-humble folks they are—hung around until every last picture was snapped, every last record was signed and every last person that wanted to hang and say hello to the band got their ya-yas out. A truly unbelievable and unforgettable performance and one hell of a way to celebrate the release of their latest offering, “Evergreen”, the lead single from their forthcoming record Dig Your Roots (due out early 2020 via Wicked Cool Records).
Don’t miss Soraia, heading out on the road this fall!!! October sees the band hitting some midwest and southeast states on their headlining tour before circling back around and finishing out strong in their stomping grounds/tri-state northeastern stomping grounds of Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey. If you aren’t yet convinced Soraia is doing their due diligence to keep rock ’n’ roll alive, maybe you should ask Joan Jett, Jesse Malin or Marky Ramone…because Soraia will have the distinct pleasure of opening for all of these legends along their 2019 tour dates as well as sharing the stage with other contemporaries like Tyler Bryant and the Shakedown this weekend. You can find all tour dates, ticket links and tour partners on their website!
Soraia has done a fantastic job of harnessing their raw, live energy in the studio recording of Evergreen as well as it’s Bowie b-side. You can purchase and stream both songs here…but if you’re a vinyl junkie, snag the limited TRI-COLORED 7” single from Wicked Cool’s website sooner than later before the limited stock is all gone now here!
Stay tuned here at mylifeinsound for an exclusive interview with Soraia frontwoman ZouZou Mansour all about the new single coming soon!
Stay Social with Soraia:
Love Like Voodoo
Rebel Rebel (David Bowie cover)
Superman is Gone
Still I Rise (Acoustic)
Come Down, Angel (Acoustic)
Have Love, Will Travel (Richard Berry cover)
Way That You Want It
Trash (New York Dolls cover)
Je ne sais quoi
Check out photos from this incredible show by Shannon Nicole: