Artist: Florence and the Machine/The Horrors
Venue: Capital FM Arena, Nottingham, UK
Date: 6th March 2012
Certain bands are built to play arenas or headline festivals. There is a master craft in having the magnetism and pomposity to captivate an audience of thousands in a venue the size of an air craft hanger. Florence and the Machine are the next band to leap from the mid sized venues into the dizzying heights of arena-ville and this is an easy transition for the collective as it’s an inevitable one.
Before The Machine and their enchanting figure head take to the stage, the task of warming up the audience falls to The Horrors. The quintet certainly have the sound to fill a venue of this size as the bass rumbles alone are floor shaking, however, as the band grind through their punk infused shoegaze hybrid, it feels less of a gig more an endurance test as the band’s monotonous dirge manages to sound like one long tuneless drone. But respect, where respect is due, the band have transformed significantly from the black paint daubing scamps of yester year and they carry two critically acclaimed albums within their arsenal, however, based on tonight’s performance, they could take a few lessons from Flo and Co in making weird pop music accessible.
Headed up by the flame haired Florence Welch, the band leader displays why she has become a world wide super star since the release of her debut album Lungs, and now heading out on the campaign trail for her latest effort, Ceremonials. With an eccentric appeal that sees Welch flit from a statuesque figure one moment to a stage stalking cheerleader aided by a floor length cape, providing a superhero aesthetic, Welch is a focal point throughout this performance, one due to her stage presence and two, the fact her voice is a force to be reckoned with. As her band assemble on stage, all nine of them, Florence glides out from behind an art deco style backdrop that throughout the performance morphs into a video screen. The star of the show then traverses the stage stairs, while dispensing with Ceremonials opener ‘If Only For A Night’, which effortlessly slides into ‘What The Water Gave Me’, both tracks showcasing Florence’s vocal dexterity along side a theatrical persona that sees her cast the odd dramatic pose or two.
What is intriguing about this performance, is that yes, the band sound loud and Florence projects a voice not dissimilar to a very musical and beautiful fog horn, but it’s the energy levels that seem stilted, even the more upbeat and raucous tracks seemed to have been dropped down a gear, ‘Shake It Out’ and ‘Dog Days Are Over’ don’t come flying out of the traps as you would expect. However the latter is saved by Flo, encouraging this sold out audience to jump in unison as the track is brought to a triumphant finale. Another neutered part of the performance surfaces as Florence is accompanied by an acoustic guitar to run through ‘Heartlines’ which puts the gig in danger of losing its momentum. Thankfully, a reworked, ‘You’ve Got The Love’ which builds from a slow hum and expands into a wall of noise crescendo, brings proceedings back on track; as does a rousing performance of ‘Spectrum’ with the refrain of “Say My Name” being hollered back by the baying crowd to a visibly elated Florence.
Florence and her mechanical chums return for a two song encore made up by ‘Never Let Me Go’ and the enormous sounding, ‘No Light, No Light’ finishing off a well rounded, polished performance.The shows may be less manic these days, as Florence is no longer the mad cap, whirlwind of old, however in these days of clinical pop music it is refreshing to know such a quirky talent is being embraced by the masses.
Word and Thoughts of Adam Williams
Photography by Naomi Abbs