I was meant to be reviewing Supergrass founding member Danny Goffey under his new guise of Vangoffey on this particular evening, but a reviewer pulled out of this one and it was bye bye Danny boy. I think I made the right decision…
Date: September 17, 2015
Venue: Motorpoint Arena Nottingham
It’s been a huge year for Florence Welch and her Machine.
After a nadir which saw her break her foot after leaping off the stage during a performance at the Coachella Festival in April, her and her band were then catapulted to the giddy stratospheres of headlining Glastonbury after Dave Grohl, from booked headliners The Foo Fighters, broke his leg during a performance.
Standing in for such global rock behemoths was never going to be easy. But Florence’s confidence and vim shone through, and they produced an astonishing set, as they do tonight.
Welch is an odd character. If she wasn’t a ‘pop star’ she’d probably be thrown out of Tesco for dancing down the aisles (a pastime she often enjoys apparently) or cast as a witch.
But it’s her idiosyncrasies, weird dress sense and howling operatics that make her so enjoyable, so engaging, and so tantalisingly good to watch.
And then there’s the songs themselves, a flock of enriched soul-pop psalms that buzz around the Motorpoint Arena, bouncing off the crowd who appear to know every syllable.
‘Flossie’ starts with the sepulchral tones of What The Water Gave Me, before it slowly morphs into a bombastic and enlightening wake of epic proportions.
Despite her flamboyant preferences, for tonight at least, her attire is understated. With simple white trousers and a mustard top, if it wasn’t for the fact she wears no shoes, this would be oddly normal.
By second track Ship To Wreck, Florence is pirouetting around the stage like a ballet dancer on acid, stretching her larynx to the limits and warbling like a cattle-prodded banshee. This becomes standard behaviour throughout the gig.
Before Shake It Off, she declares her love for a choir. But due to the lack of one, she conducts the audience through its preacher-like gospel stomp, while her two backing singers provide the ballast behind her near perfect vocals.
During Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) she demonstrates her childlike abandon, as she sprints around the arena, stopping to scale the bar at the back before legging it back to stage. She’s a crowd’s dream and a security guard’s nightmare.
Elsewhere, their cover of The Source’s You Got The Love starts almost A Cappella before exploding into the pumping, jumping dance classic it actually is, while Cosmic Love brings a touch of disparate respite to proceedings. Performed acoustically with a delicately plucked harp as its main accompaniment, it gives her voice a real pedestal.
Meanwhile, back on planet Florence, she orders everyone to take off an item of clothing during the mesmeric Dog Days Are Over. Many oblige, and the crowd becomes a sea of garment-waving, semi-naked fans.
In the encore, chugging Interpol-like guitars kick start What Kind of Man, before they end with the tub thumping, rabble-rousing Drumming Song.
They’ve had their ups and downs this year what with breakages first scuppering plans and then enhancing reputations when one man’s misfortune provided another woman’s zenith, but The Machine are musically absorbing while Florence remains the most captivating and bewildering of performers.