Florence and the Machine
May 20, 2012, Rod Laver Arena, Melbourne.
I now have a major girl crush on Florence Welsh after seeing the aforementioned frontwoman and her band Florence and the Machine play an incredible show at Rod Laver Arena.
The only Melbourne show in their Ceremonials tour, Florence and the Machine performed an incredible one-and-a-half-hour show and, unlike some bands when you see them in concert, Florence, with her unique and powerful vocals, was absolutely flawless live.
The show began when she took to the stage in a long black cape dress that is probably best described as what Professor Snape from Harry Potter would wear if he had gone crazy with the bejeweller gun. As she began to sing "Only If For A Night" she raised her arms in a kind of biblical gesture and the crowd worshipped her and hung on every word until the end.
If you’re not familiar with Florence, well, she’s probably best known for her fiery red hair, distinctive voice and penchant for long flowing hippy dresses: the epitome of hippy chic.
Florence is an interesting performer. Her persona on stage is one part ethereal goddess as she twirls around the stage in a trance-like state and one part little kid as she giggles with the audience between songs and runs from one end of the stage to the other with boundless energy.
It’s hard to describe the genre of their music. Some would say indie, but their songs are also pop as they frequent the mainstream charts. They are definitely a bit quirky, though, and it’s this distinctive sound that has garnered them so many fans.
I was expecting to see the crowd filled with 20-year-old hipsters, full-length skirts, bowler hats and mustard colours aplenty, but the audience was extremely diverse. There were older couples there, groups of friends and even families bringing their young children along (lucky spoilt kids!). This just shows the diversity of their fans.
The "machine" part of the group consists of a seven-piece band on stage including drums, keyboard, guitarist and even a harp player. They all faultlessly brought the songs to life, but Florence was still definitely the star of the show. She commanded the attention of the thousands of people in the arena with just one powerful note.
For such a large stadium show F&TM managed to connect with the audience, even challenging everyone to a dance-off during the song "Rabbit Heart". Florence explained that because the lyrics were about sacrifices, everyone had to rise up, including standing on their friends' shoulders, and dance as crazily as they could. At the end of the song she even announced a winner: a guy in the front of the general admission zone who received a kiss from Florence and the keyboard player, Issy.
At one point someone in the audience threw a floral crown on stage. Florence picked it up and wore it for a few songs, saying they never went out of style. The audience was encouraged sing along, and in one song, for about half the duration of the track, the entire crowd acted as the backing vocalists (which, in an arena of thousands, sounded epic).
The song "Shake it Out" was a highlight. When they played the opening note straight away everyone stood up in anticipation. The band cheekily held that one note for about a full minute, keeping the suspense up until Florence's powerful vocals came in.
The popular song "Dog Days are Over" was wild. Everyone was out of their seats dancing. This, combined with the soaring vocals of the track, was just joyous. In contrast the ballad "Never Let me Go" had everyone using their phones to light up the darkened arena with dots of light and just Florence’s voice on show.
While it was a bit disappointing they didn’t sing a few other tracks including arguably the most popular "You’ve Got the Love? and "Kiss With a Fist", honestly I didn’t notice they had been left out until I got home later that night.
It is a true testament to a performer and a band when they don’t have to resort to gimmicks, bizarre costumes or exploited sexuality to be interesting, but instead can create an extraordinary show with just the strength of the vocals, authentic lyrics and a whole lot of personality.
Florence and the Machine are an amazing band to see live.They leave you with an euphoric energy and lyrics stuck in your head for the next week. I would definitely recommend going to see them when they come back to Melbourne, or go out and buy Ceremonials to listen to in your room, where you can put on a flowing gown, spin around with your arms open and pretend to be Florence Welsh, possibly the coolest performer around.
5 indie floral dresses out of 5.
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