Florence Welch, the fiery redhead, known for her eccentric costumes, has a pair of lungs that have produced music that cannot fail to evoke some flicker of emotion, even in the hardest hearted souls. The British flame haired beauty, and her band Florence and the Machine, have been catapulted to stratospheric fame since they won the Critics’ Choice Award at the Brits back in 2009, an accolade which has also been grabbed by the likes of Adele and Jesse J. Since then, Florence, who has been compared to superstars such as Kate Bush, has gone on to musically challenge popular conceptions of what it takes to be a chart topper, whilst all the time keeping to her quirky and flamboyant core that we all adore. She claims, on her official website, that she writes her best music when drunk, “You’re lucid,” she explains, “but you’re not really there. You’re floating through your own thoughts, and you can pick out what you need. I like those weird connections in the universe.” Maybe this is why people seem to be clambering to collaborate with her, including the likes of Dizzee Rascal and Calvin Harris, plus global super star Beyoncé citing the band as influence for her 2011 album. With two smash hit albums under their belts, “Lungs” in 2009 followed by “Ceremonials” in 2010, Florence and the Machine’s musical credentials have been going from strength to strength. With songs featured in both the Twilight Saga, and “Snow White and The Huntsman”, it’s fair to say that Florence and the Machine have cemented themselves as a pretty big deal, in the music world, and beyond. So, when they added a date to their Ceremonials tour at Exeter’s own Westpoint arena, HCX was there waiting, at their laptops, with bated breath, and debit cards at the ready, in order to see whether this exuberant songstress was really worthy of all the hype.
Cold, miserable, and choked with car fumes from an hour-long traffic jam, HCX arrived at Westpoint Arena with our Florence inspired enthusiasm somewhat dampened, and began to trudge through ankle-deep mud. Luckily, “Only if for a Night” rang out through the drizzle, the excitement returned, and everyone broke into a run towards the entrance of Westpoint Arena.
Stood in the audience, we could have been listening to a recorded version of each song. Florence’s voice did not waver a fraction of a note from perfect, despite stage diving and many a hurtling twirl across the stage. The same can be said for the musicians surrounding her: the magnificent Machine, including a drummer, guitarist, keyboardist and harpist.
The staging was incredible; the band appeared against a backdrop of constantly changing kaleidoscope screens, which also allowed the shorter members of the audience a view of the action. Particularly beautiful was “Cosmic Love”, which was accompanied by a starlit sky that flashed white with each drumbeat. Florence Welch’s stage presence was unlike any we’d seen before. Putting aside her onstage acrobatics, the relationship she created between the musicians and the audience was truly special. She announced the band’s relief at returning to England after four years’ touring to wholehearted screaming and cheering, and her somewhat bizarre rambling about a castle and a falcon only made us love her even more.
Audience involvement reached its peak in “Rabbit Heart”, when Welch declared that the band were “looking for sacrifices”, before instructing the audience to raise a fellow member up on their shoulders, whether they liked them, loved them, “or gave birth to them”.
The encore took the form of the much awaited “Dog Days Are Over”, during which Welch demanded en masse jumping from all present, a blood-pumping finale to the most surreal, elegant and wonderful performance HCX can remember. We eagerly anticipate a new album and the return of Florence + the Machine to Exeter, and we heartily recommend readers to see them wherever and whenever they can.
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