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Florence + the Machine Live at the Olympia
A very clever girl who knows the spellbinding heights she can reach by pairing a fearless confidence with an extraordinary vulnerability.
Celina Murphy, 08 Dec 2009
Florence Welch’s mike stand is wreathed in a posy of flowers; beside her, her trusty snare, which will get a good smiting later. Dressed in a flowing black dress, she bares impossibly white feet and a shock of copper hair. She’s been on stage for a few minutes now but there are still intermittent wild squeals from the depths of the crowd - cheers I haven’t heard for artists two decades in the biz, never mind kids barely two decades on the planet.
And why shouldn’t there be? Arguably the biggest new artist of 2009, Florence Welch is now a household name; revered as a wonderful freak, a true musical oddity in manner of Kate Bush or Bjork.
Supported by a five-piece band, Welch’s slow-burning emotive howl reigns supreme tonight at every vocal dip and peak. ‘Cosmic Love’ and ‘Dog Days Are Over’ are particularly tribal, and all the better for it.
Still, from song to song, Florence is never the same girl – at times she’s our fire-haired nymph overlord, mounting the speakers to order us to the floor and rise again on her command. At others, she’s a little girl flinging herself about in her Mam’s nightgown, limbs flailing awkwardly or barely moving at all but to play tentatively with her dress. Even madder is Welch as a “Hey Nonny Nonny” phase Ophelia - when a strobe catches her movements perfectly during ‘Drumming Song’, we see just how much she’s lost it.
Before her next tune, she takes a shot of whiskey (her second of the night) cheersing all 1300 of us with her miniature glass. ‘Here’s to you!’ she barks and I find myself raising a non-existent tumbler. Now I believe I’m starting to understand the fuel that powers the unstoppable Machine. Florence Welch is not a freak at all (though her incombustible lungs are most certainly freakish). She is simply a very clever girl who knows the spellbinding heights she can reach by pairing a fearless confidence with an extraordinary vulnerability.