Florence Welch sings songs for big moments; sudden realisations, epiphanies, falling in and out of love, crashing disappointments and soaring triumphs. And her appearance, along with her Machine, last Wednesday at Dublin’s O2, did not disappoint.
For this, the band’s fourth visit to Dublin this year, us Flo fans were required to dress up. A range of disparate themes went up on the website a week before the gig, ranging from death to Valentine’s to horses to the sea. With the themes so eclectic, it was easy enough to raid past Hallowe’en costumes and/or Penney’s. That and the relatively low ticket price of €40 made this a very recession-friendly gig.
Support came from sisters (and their Irish-American drummer) Haim. That’s pronounced Hi-im, not Hay-m, much to the surprise of the crowd. The three Californians displayed amazing musicianship, and transatlantic charm, their rendition of singles “Don’t Save Me” and “Forever” getting the crowd nicely warmed up for the main event. During their closing number, a figure dressed in a lion costume came out to bash some drums. She was introduced as “Laurence the Lion”. Not saying it was Florence, but we have never seen her in the same room as this shady lion character.
The final show of the Ceremonials tour kicked off with “Only If For A Night”. The tinkling piano, evoking circuses, leads to the entrance of Florence Welch, her red hair up, dressed in a clown suit with two hearts dotted on her cheeks. As she pirouettes gracefully on stage, she strews glitter into the crowd.
There’s magic in the air and not just because Florence sings about ghosts being practical. The pace never lets up- the energy of Florence + The Machine is incredible, especially considering that they have circumnavigated the globe twice this year. Florence is different from other female denizens of the Top 40- there are no costume changes, no crippling high heels, no confidence issues. Instead, she genuinely seems to enjoy herself. She races around the stage, barefoot, interacting with the crowd and admiring costumes.
The opening song segues straight into “What The Water Gave Me”. This atmospheric track sounds even more impressive live. Lungs, the band’s first album, has been relegated somewhat in this tour, so it was a nice surprise to hear “Drumming Song”. A word of praise must go to the always-excellent band here- the drumming in particular was suitably deafening. Florence talks to us for the first time, saying how glad she is to be back in Ireland. Onto more songs from Lungs. The crowd sing along to “Cosmic Love” with passion, and it’s easy to imagine O2 executives rubbing their hands with glee- you can’t buy this kind of publicity. During “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” she pauses in the middle, drawling out the middle eight word by word, until the chorus returns with a bang. That’s the nearest to a rest that Florence Welch takes all night. “You’ve Got The Love”, the cover of the old Candi Staton/The Source song, is akin to a religious experience. Hard to believe that it started life as a jingle for diet pills.
It’s back to Ceremonials, with album highlight “Lover To Lover” next. Florence’s voice never seems to crack or waver, and its power is unquestionable. “Heartlines” and “Leave My Body” are epic. “Sweet Nothing”, the collaboration with Calvin Harris, gains something new when stripped of the Scottish DJ’s dance beats, as does “Spectrum” during the encore.
The show finishes with “Shake It Out”, which Florence dedicates to anyone who’ll have a hangover in the morning (the crowd goes wild) and “No Light, No Light” which is absolutely stomping live.
After a restless wait- the crowd has definitely not had enough- the band return for a three-song encore. “Kiss With a Fist” is one that divides fans, being a remnant of the time when Florence Welch looked to be another Kate Nash or Lily Allen. Love it or hate it, it’s a throwaway slice of guitar pop that sounded great live. After “Spectrum”, Florence picks her favourite costumes and brings them up on stage for the barnstorming “Dog Days Are Over”. Blue stage lighting depicting a Greek-looking garden betray the art-school dropout’s love of the classics. Up on stage, Mario dances with a king.
“That’s my sister,” the guy behind me says in incredulity. “Oh my God. This is the first time I’ve actually liked her.”
The whole night has been all about showing the love. Health and safety must loathe Florence Welch, with her bare feet and crowd-surfing (her requests to the audience include leaping on each other’s shoulders and tossing shoes and underwear on stage) but as we belt out the chorus to “Dog Days”, we all adore the quirky Londoner with the massive voice.
*Lead image by Justin Farrelly via Facebook
2012 is winding down and it was an incredible year for Florence + The Machine. The Daily Shift’s Roisin Peddle was at Wednesday night’s gig at the O2…
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