Florence and the Classical Machine – A performance full of poise, Live Review of Florence and the Machine, Royal Albert Hall, April 3rd 2012

Posted: April 4, 2012 in Alternative Music, Art Rock, Pop, Popular Music
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Florence and the Machine, Teenage Cancer Trust series, Live at the Royal Albert Hall, April 3rd 2012

Florence Welch with Classical Machine at The Royal Albert Hall, London, UK, April 3rd 2012

Florence Welch with Classical Machine at The Royal Albert Hall, London, UK, April 3rd 2012

Going to see Florence and the Machine last night at the Royal Albert I thought would be routine (well about as routine as it gets when you’re going to see an artist like Florence Welch). I thought I would basically be filling in the blanks for a show similar to the one I had seen at Alexandra Palace. Well, I could not have been more wrong.  I was completely blindsided as Florence Welch, in keeping with the grandiose venue went classical bordering on operatic and changed the setlist around. Gone was the regular “Machine” replaced by an orchestra and probably about 10 quality backing singers.

Gone was the feathery gothic costume that she performed in the last time she was at the Royal Albert Hall in 2009, (incidentally for the same event  – “The Teenage Cancer Trust” concert series), as she made her way onto stage in a stunning figure length, figure hugging gold coloured dress. Then, taking me completely by surprise she opened with a slow soaring rendition of  “You Got The Love”  supported with a mournful string section accompaniment. And that was an opening statement as to the intent of the show. It was to be classical but more than this it was to be a showcase for Florence Welch’s voice. This was a brave and bold decision to take for an artist who is only on her second studio album, even if she is currently the darling of the art rock/indie scene. There were some songs that lent themselves better to this approach. “Only if for a night” fitted in perfectly with the orchestral sound. No drums are really needed for that one but maybe they are for the “Drumming Song” and “Heartlines”. For the “Drumming Song” there were sudden crescendos of brass and punctuated chords from the backing singers and staccato notes from the strings. The drama was there in the music but I did not quite click with the arrangement. It’s all down to personal taste, I suppose. However, for “Heartline”s, the swirling harp in the background, piano and backing singers made for a charming take on the song. With Florence’s classical look you could have closed your eyes and easily imagined yourself sitting a garden in Ancient Rome by a fountain.

Florence Welch shows poise at The Royal Albert Hall, London, April 3rd, 2012

Florence admitted she had “never felt so nervous” and did take a while to settle. But when she did she started to get into stride. She even gave waves to each part of the auditorium including the choir sections and side circles – nice touch, I thought.

Welch was angelic on the opening bars of “Between Two Lungs” and I loved the interplay between her vocals and the piano and then eventually the harp. The whole arrangement of this song had a very sunny feel.

Florence proved she has an understated sense of humour. She said she could never have imagined when started that she would be doing an orchestral gig at the Royal Albert Hall and added she could never imagined saying the words “Hi Dad, this is Roger Daltrey”, in reference to the singer of The Who, who is also the host of these Teenage Cancer Trust concerts. Then it was back to the gig with the song “Breaking Down”. The intro with harp was distinctive and the strings gave the song a dreamy surreal feeling.

“All This and Heaven Too” was a masterclass in vocal control and harmony between Florence and the backing singers feeling a bit like listening to a choral work in church whereas “No Light, No Light” was understated compared to the album version but no less impressive for Florence’s vocal dexterity. I marvelled with the ease at which she was able to crisply go up an octave and half in three notes.

Florence and the "Classical" Machine captivate the crowd at the Royal Albert Hall, London, April 3rd 2012

Florence and the "Classical" Machine captivate the crowd at the Royal Albert Hall, London, April 3rd 2012

 

So by this time I had lost all sense of being part of a 5000 strong crowd and was totally enthralled and concentrated on the performance. The delivery of “Never Let Me Go” can only be described as vocal perfection. You could hear a pin drop in the Albert Hall.

Also enjoyable as much for the audience’s complete lack of hand clapping rhythm as for the atmosphere it engendered in the venue was “Dog Days are Over”. Mind you with no drums it wasn’t easy to keep time.

The show was wound up with a rousing rendition of “Shake it Out” and a standing ovation to which to the surprise of the audience Florence did not return to do an encore.

The concert and the arrangement were well constructed and the choice of an orchestral gig was entirely appropriate to this grand old venue. Florence herself was vocally brilliant but quite static on stage compared the energy she exudes in a regular concert. She kept saying she had to be “poised”. I enjoyed the originality and applaud the attempt but I am also glad I saw the Alexandra Palace concert with the more album-like arrangements. Overall, though, another excellent concert.

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Comments
  1. A says:

    I changed my mind! Florence won this one…big time.

  2. anon says:

    That was a fantastic performance, quite different. Her vocals were spot on the whole time.Only problem was that she left off a few songs that would have been perfect backed by an orchestra, such as rabbit heart or howl. Shame she didn’t sing a few more more, it was interesting hearing the new arrangments. I hope she realises a live album in future with the orchestra.

    • londongigger says:

      I agree Christine, it was awesome and unexpected. Whether Rabbit Heart would have worked without drums or not is matter of opion. As for the live album, I have seen some live downloads available on You Tube. I don’t know how he did it but there is live footage of evry song in the concert from different angles as well. Thanks for reading my blog and the thumbs up as well. In case you are interested, in the near future, I will be covering The Asteroid Galaxy Tour, Amadou and Mariam, Foster The People and Garbage. On a larger scale, in the summer I will be reviewing Lana del Rey and Madonna.

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