Florence and the Machine
26-May-2012 Sydney Entertainment Centre, Sydney
May 24, 2012
Support: Blood Orange
Reviewed by Christine Caruana
It was my girlfriend who first introduced me to Florence and the Machine, and I remember thinking it would be just another generic pop artist striving for their 15 minutes of fame. The first song I heard was “Only If For a Night” and instantly I knew my initial thoughts were ill conceived and I had clearly jumped to conclusions. Florence and the Machine are more than just a simple pop group, and while I enjoyed their records, seeing them live was further proof that this band is here to stay.
Dev Hynes – better known as Blood Orange – had actually written for Florence and the Machine in the past and is sort of a jack of all trades. The composer, producer, song writer, multi-instrumentalist and singer opened the night as a solo performer. A drum machine, synths, guitar and video imagery of sun-stroked beaches and bikini clad women were his weapons of choice for the evening. Separately, they don’t sound too special – except perhaps the video montage – but when Hynes is in control he creates a sound like nothing you’ve ever heard before. His strong, yet soft and pop styled vocals over a harsh beat, electric synths and gritty guitar work somehow created a set that was both derelict and inspirational at the same time. His rendition of “Never Let Me Go” was a great shout out to the headlining performer, but could have probably been left off the set. We were about to see an hour and a half of Florence and the Machine, and it felt a little too sycophantic.
There was no way I could have expected Florence and the Machine live to be as great live as they were. With the stage set; harp, piano, drums and guitars all in place the band is read to take their places – backup singers included. Almost immediately our attention was drawn to Florence Welch dressed in a Baroque style robe standing stock still in front of the set piece. As the music began for Ceremonials album opener “Only If For a Night” she walked like royalty to centre stage.
While the opening track was a rather sombre affair with her robe billowing from the two fans placed on the stage, creating an atmospheric touch to the track, the rest of the night was a mix of a fun, upbeat party and dark, haunting reality. The highlight of the evening came from the token pop track “Shake it Out” and it wasn’t because the song was performed so well – which it was – but because of a little member of the audience named Emily. Florence initiated a dance contest for the song with the promise that “whoever loses their shit the most” would win a kiss from her and Isabella Summers. They then entered the crowd to deliver her reward but the child wouldn't let them go and our attention was drawn to the little girl who wandered on stage. If this was an adult we can only assume security would have removed her post haste, but who could deny this little girl her wish to be on stage with Florence Welch? The singer lifted her to the mic, Emily gave a big hello to the people in the crowd, and was returned safely to her mother.
The rest of the show went off without a hitch – apart from the girl who appeared to almost faint in the dance floor. Florence had everyone upstanding – even those stubborn members in the stalls – to anthem tracks “You’ve Got the Love”, “Heartlines” and “Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up)”. In spite of venue rules, she managed to coax ten people to go up on the shoulders of others while she ran and jumped around the stage with the grace of a gymnast. “Seven Devils”, “Dog Days are Over” and “No Light, No Light” brought out the stoic, gothic, operatic side from the head of the machine.
Florence and the Machine brought the Sydney Entertainment Centre alive in a way I’ve never seen before, and despite being a new comer to the world of pop performances, I am glad I was a part of it.
You've Got the Love
Only If For a Night
Between Two Lungs
All This and Heaven Too
Leave My Body
Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up)
No Light, No Light
Dog Days are Over
Never Let Me Go
Shake it Out
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