21 May 2012
As I arrive at Rod Laver Arena on a fresh Melbourne evening, two things become apparent to me. First, I am really early. Second, there must be a good reason for this punctuality as I am notoriously late for most shows I attend. Florence and the Machine are, in fact, the first band, in a long time, to have had this effect on me. Pondering my uncharacteristic behaviour, I realise that unlike so many of the other touring acts around at the moment, Florence et al represent the 'genuine' musicians. Y'know, the ones that don't rely on elaborate stage shows, impeccably choreographed dancers, or pyrotechnics, to grasp and hold an audience's attention. I think it's this that has brought me here before gates open.PHOTO GALLERY: Check out all the incredible pics from the gig right here!!
Waiting for the show to start, I watch the hordes file in. They weren't as early as me, but they're just as keen. There are a lot of teens, a few parentals, and an abundance of fellow redheads in bright tights. It's almost as if this concert represents some sort of liberation event for the flame-haired community. But I digress.
Moving inside, I am met by a lone man on stage with a guitar, laptop and a video screen. This is Blood Orange, or as his mother calls him, Dev Hynes. At this stage, I must admit that I expected, and wanted, a full band. But as I was soon to find out, it wasn't needed. This man is an incredible musician. With blistering guitar solos, infectious pre-programmed drum beats, and sweet vocals, Hynes channelled Prince and the 80s in his short but impressive set.
After a brief intermission, filled with the scurrying of stage hands and eager concert-goers clamouring for a place at the front of the crowd, members of the machine begin filing on stage. Expectedly, the arena erupts. This sound is only surpassed as Florence appears. Dressed resplendently in black, she is half messiah, half beautiful wizard. Her garb matches her elegantly simplistic set which is adorned by a glowing podium, 8 musicians, and a harp.WATCH Flo + The Machine perform 'DOG DAYS ARE OVER' LIVE!!
Florence powers though the opening few songs of the set which consists mainly of tracks from her latest album, Ceremonials. Bounding across stage, she looks like a skipping schoolgirl, which is perfectly counterbalanced by the heavy and dramatic subject matter of her songs. She also demonstrates a James Brown like command of her band who, with precision, match her every movement, utterance and syllable. The syncopation is beautiful and effortless.
Throughout the set, you can feel the bass drum in your chest. The mix is great. And the crowd responds accordingly, singing every line with her. At one point, she is even presented with a gift; what seems to be a hand-made string tiara which she appreciatively wears for the next song.
Florence concludes the first set with two of her biggest hits, 'Shake it out' and 'Dog days are over'. And, as much as I love hearing the new stuff, these tracks garner the best reaction of the evening -- wall to wall standing ovation, complete with plenty-o-hands-in-the-air-like-you-just-don't-care.
The band then take a break and come back for 2 more songs. But for most of the audience, the zenith has already been reached. Nevertheless, the final moments of this amazing concert are filled with wonderful music, fervent appreciation, and most-likely some tears from the more fanatical fans.
All in all, Florence killed it. I didn't want it to end. I wish there were more like her. Etcetera, etcetera.
Thanks to her, I was early to the show and late to work the following day.
Review: Ryan Yip - Take 40 team
Photos: Kate Wehl