Florence and the Machine – ABC – 22/09/2009

Published

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Catriona Reilly

The XX have been subject to serious hype, but as they appear out of the dry ice lined up like a gothic firing squad the crowd seems woefully apathetic. Despite this, they begin the set with the delicately gloomy ‘Intro’, leading into the minimal ‘Crystalised’ with the male/female duo Oliver and Romy exchanging airy vocals.

The following songs ‘Islands’ and ‘Shelter’ are dominated by Romy’s dry vocals set against mellow beats and moody guitar. The crowd still fails to appreciate the atmospheric performance but The XX soldier on, demonstrating a well rehearsed synchronicity between band members which makes ‘Infinity’ sound especially spectacular, with hints of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’. The band finish on an unusual but brilliant cover of Womack and Womack’s ‘Teardrops’, leaving the stage as eerily as they entered, but not as appreciated as they deserve.

As an array of instruments are revealed from under various drapes, the crowd begins to buzz. When Florence takes to the stage it becomes apparent that this will be more than just a standard gig, prancing on adorned in one of her many Stevie Nicks-esque sparkling capes. Dedications of undying love are screamed from the crowd, a crowd which seems to span age, gender and style. Florence and her orchestral machine ignite the audience with the energetic ‘Kiss with a Fist’, her fans’ only outmatched in exuberance by Florence herself, firing into a childlike frenzy, and dancing like no one is watching. Throughout the evening she swings between explosive and timidher vocals ranging from beautiful to powerfully terrifying on songs such as ‘My Boy Builds Coffins’ and ‘Birdsong’, both uniquely magical and tinged with emotion.

The audience is then treated to something special with an intriguing new song, holding great promise for the next album. This is then followed by the appearance of spectral birdcages on stage and intimate acoustic versions of ‘Hurricane Drunk’ and‘I’m Not Calling You a Liar’, which makes Florence’s voice sound even more awe inspiring, set against the modest strings. The consequent performance of ‘Blinding’ couldn’t be more of a contrast; a thundering crescendo, which feels like the world is about to end, perfectly conveys the tale of a girl with a catastrophically broken heart. With the crowd rattled they launch into ‘Dog Days’, during which Florence instructs the crowd to “jump”, inciting a feverous bout of pogo-ing. The madness is only punctuated by Florence’s giggling and cheerful banter which spans a number of topics throughout the night, betraying not only her age, but her intrinsic sweetness too.

The band continues with a haunting rendition of ‘Cosmic love’ before disappearing, leaving Florence alone to sing Etta James’s ‘Something’s got a Hold On Me’, the song which kick-started her career. To finish the show Florence rolls out two energetic favourites, ‘You Got the Love’ and ‘Rabbit Heart’, which excite the crowd as Florence bounds up and down, gesturing wildly and dancing like she is possessed. As the band leaves, the crowd cries desperate for more– hardly surprising for a performance this truly magnificent.