Five months after her second number-one album, Flo is back, on a monster UK, European and U.S. tour – mostly playing bowls, arenas and other gigantic venues. Gracing a jam-packed Capital FM Arena with their presence last week, Florence and the Machine are now treading an interestingly line between being NME indie darlings and becoming the next Adele – as witnessed by her X-Factor appearance and the ensuing sell-out accusations from many early fans.
But it seems Florence at least, or whoever chooses her tour mates, is focusing on her alternative appeal rather than targeting the mainstream audience; achingly-Dalston up and coming indie boys Spector and skinny-jeaned, synth heroes the Horrors opened the show. Up first, Spector were posed to the extreme and seemed to be having sound troubles – all trousers and no bark.
The Horrors put on a much better spectacle, drenched in atmospheric lights and silhouetted in their standard matching black. They played a mix of their three albums, with brooding but hooky closers ‘Sea Within A Sea’ and ‘Still Life’ especially strong. Though they were treated very much as an opening band, rather than a successful one in their own right, I can’t believe in the arena could have dismissed them – they were hugely charismatic and the songs worked extremely well live. Even if you weren’t enjoying it, I don’t think you could deny they were good. That said, Faris and co.’s full on indie look and pounding, Joy Division-esque sound was probably a bit much for all the middle-aged mums who just wanted to hear ‘You’ve Got The Love’.
Such indie openers belied Florence’s audience, demonstrating perhaps how she would like to be seen, rather than how she is perceived. I don’t want to sound like a mouth-burning hipster (having eaten my pizza before it was cool – zing!) but the crowd was a major problem. Maybe I just haven’t seen someone with such mainstream appeal for while, but there was an inclination towards howling “Florrrreeeeeence!” and shrieking during any lull in the music, often drowning out the more delicate vocals – as well as an irritating desire to clap along whenever the beat was vaguely regular (though they were unfortunately flummoxed by the slight syncopation of ‘Rabbit Heart’).
On stage though, it was flawless. Flo capered around in a catsuit and a vast shoulder-padded cloak worthy of Patrick Wolf, in front of an art-deco 1920s set, which became stained-glass with the appropriate lighting. “The Machine” were out in force, with two drummers, two pianists, three backing singers, a bassist, guitarist and a harpist all squeezed onstage. Powering through a Ceremonials heavy set, Florence poked fun at her “blood and entrails” lyrics and positively sprinted around the stage – impressive, when she’s belting out quasi-operatic pop songs.
Inevitably, highlights included ‘Dog Days Are Over’, ‘Rabbit Heart’ and ‘You’ve Got The Love’ but newer songs like ‘Never Let Me Go’ and ‘Leave My Body’ were given new a angle live and stood well amongst the more anthemic first album tracks. The band and Florence’s vocals were undeniably great – with the backing singers particularly impressive. It was a solid, but slightly uninspiring performance; nothing was wrong, but I was far from blown away. Long pauses between songs, the infuriating crowd and not enough of Lungs’ magicality didn’t help, and a questionable encore (with ‘Kiss With A Fist’ conspicuous in its absence) compounded the problem. Despite Florence’s many thanks to the crowd for having her, I’m not sure she’s quite ready to rock the stadiums, failing to get the seated masses on their feet for most of the show and with some of the calmer songs falling a bit flat.