Florence Welch has come a long way in a short time. Four years ago she was playing small theatres and now she’s taking on arenas and selling out three nights at Alexandra Palace. Her breakthrough LP Lungs has conquered the world, the singles becoming ubiquitous in 2010, whilst new album Ceremonials has cemented her status as one of pop music’s big-hitters.
This is a venue that suits her and her vast live show. There is plenty of room in this vast space for bombast. Florence’s well-oiled and rock-solid Machine now has support in numbers; to the right of the stage is a string section and a gospel choir on the left.
It’s pretty full-on but, at the same time, not over-powering – the melodrama is pretty well-judged. The bells that ring out during Only If For A Night make an already feverishly anticipating crowd even more eager, before Welch emerges from the shadows and calmly walks down the walkway to the centre to the screams of thousands.
No sooner has she arrived an onslaught of tribal drumming hits, giving weight to a song far more powerful live than on record. Equally so, Spectrum, which closes out the main set, is suitably beefed up and is turned into a real electro-dance stomper.
Welch does have a more controlled stage persona than the wild days of yore, but she’s still frequently prone to setting the beast loose, jumping and twirling from one side to the other. During Shake It Out she really lets go and it continues through to a euphoric Dog Days Are Over that has everyone jumping. It’s at that moment you realise she has the crowd in the palm of her hand.
All of this makes the relatively sedate middle-section, all made of album tracks from Ceremonials, a little bit disappointing and the only real low point of the night. Breaking Down is fine orchestral pop but when followed by Heartlines and Leave My Body, it presents as nothing more than an opportunity for the audience to get their energy back as the momentum is briefly lost.
However, the pace is picked up shortly after though as an orchestra-led version of her You Got The Love cover gets everyone in the palace singing along, whilst Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) sees women being raised on shoulders in jubilation on Welch’s instructions. As the final notes of Spectrum ring out the smile on her face is clear for all to see.
After a short break she returns for an celebratory encore. No Light, No Light has the crowd in raptures and Never Let Me Go caps off a fine evening. Those hoping for something spectacular – maybe some crazy strobes or special effects – might walk away feeling a bit let down but that would be unfair. Tonight was about, as it should be, Florence And The Machine and as it happens it’s still chugging along just fine.
Florence And The Machine played: Only If For A Night, What The Water Gave Me, Seven Devils, Between Two Lungs, Cosmic Love, Shake It Out, Dog Days Are Over, Breaking Down, Heartlines, Leave My Body, You’ve Got The Love, Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up), Spectrum. Encore: All This And Heaven Too, No Light No Light, Never Let Me Go.