Published Nov 04, 2009Florence and the Machine's eponymous front-woman, Florence Welch, has the kind of voice that will eventually fill theatres. Massive, robust and versatile, her vocals dominated an end-of-tour Mod Club gig, ultimately compensating for the spottiness of her still-small canon.
Lacking Adele's mothball sound and Amy Winehouse's public dalliances, Florence is the most universally palatable of late-period UK songstresses. Like Kate Bush without the literary allusions or staccato delivery, Welch melds light wackiness with classic talent but occasionally strays into commonplace chanteuse territory (see the non-confrontational quirkiness of "Kiss with a Fist" and "My Boy Builds Coffins"). Onstage, though, her operatic pipes and affability downplayed her reliance on MOR rock tropes.
Tone-setting lead-off "Between Two Lungs" let Welch ride a promising left-field keyboard; Leaving Las Vegas-indebted (well, sort of) "Hurricane Drunk" found her playfully trying out a Motown guise; and a funked-up "Dog Days are Over" spurred jump-along audience participation.
Despite a sporadically muddy mix, the five-piece Machine consummately established versatile sonic settings for Welch's vocal meanders. Forgettable radio fare "You've Got the Love" and "Howl" grew exponentially, profiting greatly from stomping percussion, while "Kiss with a Fist" gained a much-needed chunky guitar line. Conversely, a cover of Cold War Kids' "Hospital Beds" utilized minimal percussion simply and effectively.
Set highlight "Cosmic Love" wisely placed Florence at the fore, beginning with a spacey keyboard part and building to a stirring vocal crescendo. Similarly, "Drumming Song" saw her vanquish feisty percussion after a spirited - albeit one-sided - duel.
With only one record and a handful of covers and B-sides to draw on, Florence et al astutely kept the proceedings short. Blending robust pop with a pristine, sonorous voice, it was a rousing, polished affair.