Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Florence + The Machine at T5, 11/01/10

I have a confession to make... In April, I saw Florence + The Machine at Terminal 5.

I never wrote about it.

Why? Well, I am of the opinion that there is enough negativity in the world, and I try to keep my more critical reviews to a bare minimum, simply because I don't get PAID to do this- so why be a bummer? I want to keep this blog light, enthusiastic, and fun. That being said, obviously my review of the Florence + The Machine show at Terminal 5 a few months ago, would've been a bit of a let down.

I hate Terminal 5. Their sound techs are earless nimcompoops, the layout of the venue is like a labyrinth from hell, and every time I leave there, I swear I have contracted some rare whooping cough disease that may end my life. The Florence show was no exception to the above statements, although may I also add that the harp was completely inaudible, the audience was a bunch of nasty little teenaged prats, and I could only hear Flo HALF the time. The songs lacked "oomph" for me live, alas, I deemed Flo another avid user of auto-tuning, and studio magic. I walked away that night a little disappointed.

Elegance Incarnate!
It's been a few months, and I have seen Florence pick up in popularity in a major way. I still have her debut album "Lungs" on HEAVY rotation even though it's been beyond a year of my listening to it. There's been a small collection of new tracks introduced, the most prevalent being the hauntingly beautiful and gothic "Heavy in Your Arms" song from the Twilight Eclipse soundtrack. Then, I saw her live performance of "Dog Days are Over" at the VMAs. I could hear her voice, unscathed by technology, and as hauntingly beautiful as I imagined it to be. So, I bit the bullet, and got myself a ticket to see her again at Terminal 5. This time I would fly solo, and promised myself a spot upfront. What I was aiming for was a concert of redemption for Florence Welch. I wanted to walk away thrilled and exhilarated... I managed to snake my way into the crowd and got a spot 3 people deep directly between the harp & Flo's mic & drum station. As I weaved and slinked my way through the crowd, I noted the faces ethnicity, gender, and age were incredibly varied- something I am always thrilled to witness at a show. As an added bonus, there were absolutely no obnoxious teens in my vicinity! I staked my claim on an ideal piece of concert real estate, and waited.

The 2 opening acts were OK. The first had a good schtick in my opinion, they sounded like a twangier version of the White Stripes crossed with Queens of the Stone Age. I wish I could remember their name... I would actually go and check them out. The second act, The Smith Westins were baby faced boys who could play their instruments, but haven't really carved out their own sound and style yet in my opinion. I could literally hear their influences-- the Ramones, Squeeze, the Pixies, the Clash--but it was derivative more than homage. Of course, as I wrote out these supposed "influences" I wonder if these kids even ever heard of them? I hope they find their own style some day, because they had some potential... but right now they just sounded like a cover band to me. 

Then, there was the moment I've been waiting for since April for- Florence's Terminal 5 Redemption Show (or at least what I was hoping it would become). The lights grew dim then faded to dark. A long string of droning synthetic sounds paired with a stark piano note rang out, then she emerged, dressed in all white and gossamer with a particularly cute black bow cinched at her petite waist. Lips painted to match the flaming locks upon her head, a somber look upon her face, the show commenced. They began with one of my favorite Florence songs of all time. "Howl"is one of those songs that is ferocious to me when it's on at full volume in my headphones. It plays and I literally begin to feel myself transform into a beast as I listen to it. I wish I could say the same about it live. It was a bit of a weak opening number for me, and I felt myself grow crest fallen. Don't get me wrong it was beautifully performed and THANK GOD the harp was audible and gorgeous, but, there was no beast clawing at my ears. Luckily, this would be the only "weak" moment of the evening. 

There were a few breakout moments for me that satiated the monstrous vixen inside me. In particular Flo's performance of "Blinding" was absolutely cathartic and bombastic. The effect of the strobes and the drums utterly eviscerated my eyes and ears with that rawness I'd been searching for. Then, there was Flo, freshly draped in a black shawl, seemingly possessed by the sound around her- THERE was the brooding conjurer I had been waiting for! They also chose to perform a new fantastically lively song "Strangeness and Charms" and... if this is any indicator of what the second album is going to sound like, then get ready kids- because Neo-Baroque Gothic Love Songs are going to be the WAVE of the future!

This was the show I was waiting for from Florence + The Machine. There are several reasons for this: the crowd was a delight, the sound (for a shocking change for T5) was actually quite on the mark, the harp was positively gorgeous, and Florence's voice has increased in strength ten-fold. Every song was a step towards one of the greatest musical climaxes of my concert going life- "Between Two Lungs". This is a song I really genuinely believe Florence LOVES to sing out loud and proud. Lucky for me it's my personal favorite love anthem of the last two years! 

The Lady Conjurer!
The encore was a nice touch. The big surprise was that I actually got to hear my new favorite track "Heavy in Your Arms" and it did NOT disappoint. Every time she belted out "HEa-Vy, HEa-Vy" I died a little! What I walked away with from this show was the energy of excitement, romance of a gothic persuasion, and hope.  I really could feel the adoration directed towards the stage, and I could feel and plainly see the gratitude from Florence. She is truly a gracious performer, who's particularly in love with NYC. Something I can definitely get behind. 

Here's the setlist: (Thanks to Anna for scoring me this print out from the stage!!)

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