Live Music + Gig Reviews

Florence And The Machine @ Union Chapel, London

22 November 2009

Florence And The Machine

Florence And The Machine

For tonight’s Little Noise Sessions gig, curator Jo Whiley has managed to bring together two of the ‘ones to watch’ for 2010 and two acts that have (to varying degrees) had successful 2009s. Set within the beautiful Union Chapel, the series of stripped down gigs, which aim to raise money and awareness for charity Mencap, have so far seen an The X-Factor winner (Alexandra Burke), a surprise guest (Alex Turner) and myriad other examples of mainly British talent grace the stage.

Before the ridiculously young Ellie Goulding steps out, Whiley implores the crowd to treat her nicely, highlighting how intimidating it can be with the crowd so close. It’s certainly a scared-looking young lady that meekly steps out and picks up what looks a giant acoustic guitar for opener, Wish I’d Stayed. As she plays the opening riff, there’s clearly something wrong; she’s forgotten to plug the guitar in. It’s a sweet moment, Goulding apologising and shrugging at her band, including producer Starsmith on keyboards. She starts it up again, and as soon as that undulating, charmingly breathy voice kicks in, the tension is visibly lifted. A short set of just four songs – including recent single Under The Sheets and the gorgeous Starry Eyed – is all we get, but it’s enough time to witness a genuinely exciting talent.

Next is Swedish singer-songwriter Erik Hassle, whose visible resemblance to Sideshow Bob isn’t enough to distract you from his brand of accessible, heartfelt pop that he delivers in a rich, swollen voice, loaded with emotion. It threatens to overpower him on the touching The Thanks I Get and future single Hurtful, but the real highlight is his impassioned cover of Sam Cooke‘s Nothing Can Change This Love.

It falls to the Golden Silvers to provide the first real drama of the evening. We’re told that singer Gwilym Gold nearly didn’t make the gig due to emergency dental surgery only a couple of hours before, a fact that accounts for his somewhat pained expression throughout. Things aren’t helped either by a rogue microphone that squeals and hisses whenever Gold goes near it, creating some interesting sound effects on opener Magic Touch. From there, though, it’s plain sailing, the band creating delicate, harmony-lead versions of tracks from their debut, True Romance.

The dramatic Here Comes The King sees Gold tinkling the ivories, whilst a joyful Arrows Of Eros works despite the lack of any cheap synths, the whole thing sounding much more refined. The highlight is Fade To Black, which Gold delivers in his cracked croon, his swollen mouth adding an extra level of slurred loveliness.

It’s apt that Florence And The Machine should headline, given the fact that just 12 months ago they were on first. Augmented by a four-piece string section, harp and acoustic guitar, it’s Florence Welch who dominates. Or rather, that voice does. With its owner noticeably (and appropriately) subdued, it’s the voice that carries the songs, Welch restraining it and unleashing it with masterful control. During a heart-stopping Between Two Lungs, as the song reaches its crescendo, she beats her chest before titling her head back slightly and suddenly the note rises another octave, unfurling up to the rafters.

Hurricane Drunk and Dog Days Are Over are greeted with massive cheers, whilst Drumming Song is performed sans drums. Recent single You’ve Got The Love is transformed into a dark, almost gothic love song, with minor chords replacing the song’s euphoria. But it’s Cosmic Love that stands out, Welch delivering each line with an emotion you’d think would have passed after months and months of constant touring.

After a celebratory run through of Rabbit Heart, she’s gone, leaving a breathless crowd unsure of how to demand an encore without upsetting the Gods. They choose instead to exit quietly, possibly contemplating the chances of Ellie Goulding headlining this time next year.

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