Wednesday, November 4th, 2009
Between Two Lungs
Florence & The Machine at The Mod Club in Toronto
Frank YangInitial buzz around Florence & The Machine was largely built on a handful of singles, live recordings and performances that positioned Florence Welch as a big-voiced musical eccentric (or as I put it last November, “batshit crazy”) surely set for a career of creative left turns and cul-de-sacs that would delight as often as it confounded. But the surprise – in these quarters, at least – came when it was announced that Florence had signed with major label Island for her debut, majors never really being the most adept entities at marketing “crazy”.
But they are better at marketing “glitz” and there’s far more of that in evidence than psychosis on Florence’s first long-player Lungs, a bright and shiny showcase for Welch’s pipes. Stylistically, it’s hard to pin down as it veers from garage rock to gospel/soul wailers through big pop productions, the only common denominators being Welch and her flair for the dramatic, not to mention an apparent determination to include as much harp as possible, everywhere. Credited to a brace of different producers, there’s definitely a whiff of “by committee” about the proceedings, some numbers are more show than song and are sometimes delivered with more bombast than necessary, but when the combination of Welch’s primal voice and pop hooks connect – and that’s still far more often than not – the results are remarkable. While some/many have their knives out for Welch for whatever reason – the amount of hype that buoyed her rise to fame, her admittedly over-played and over-calculated kooky public persona, whatever, they’ll find no traction in criticizing her talent – the packaging may be debatable, but the goods are for real.
And those goods were well on display on Monday night before a completely sold-out Mod Club, the final night of a North American tour that included four shows in addition to her CMJ appearances. Hardly a grueling itinerary, but that was perhaps to our advantage as Welch still had plenty of energy and nothing to conserve it for. Though starting small with “Between Two Lungs”, the show quickly picked up in scale and volume, thanks to a five-piece backing band – including harp – that was a far cry from the raw duo format she first turned heads with at SxSW – and hit an early peak a few songs in with a vigorous “Kiss With A Fist” before stepping away from Lungs briefly for a b-side and Cold War Kids cover, all delivered with that huge voice that was as powerful live as one would have imagined and hoped. Throughout the show, Welch managed to maintain her theatrical bearing, all arm gestures and flourishes, while connecting with her audience, genuinely and appreciatively. I fully expect that she organized the mass leaping for “Dog Days Are Over” at every show, but that doesn’t make her obvious glee at watching some 500 people bouncing up in down in unison any less real – it was a thing to see and my obvious high point of the night. Judging from the collective swoon that met the encore, for many others it was her reading of “You’ve Got the Love” that was the singular, crystalline moment of the night. I think all could agree, however, that “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” was a superb finale, pretty much encapsulating everything that is great and grand about Florence & The Machine – the voice, the drama, the songs and yes, of course, the harp.
Photos: Florence & The Machine @ The Mod Club – November 2, 2009
MP3: Florence & The Machine – “I’m Not Calling You A Liar”
MP3: Florence & The Machine – “Kiss With A Fist”
MP3: Florence & The Machine – “Postcards From Italy”
MP3: Florence & The Machine – “Girl With 1 Eye” (live)
MP3: Florence & The Machine – “Hospital Beds” (live)
Video: Florence & The Machine – “You’ve Got The Love” (The xx remix)
Video: Florence & The Machine – “You’ve Got The Love”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Drumming Song”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Kiss With A Fist”
Video: Florence & The Machine – “Dog Days Are Over”
MySpace: Florence & The Machine
The Music Magazine has an interview with Charlotte Hatherley, whose new record New Worlds should be available everywhere but is sadly available almost nowhere (at least in physical form). But is worth seeking out.
Good news from Drowned In Sound – Lightspeed Champion will release his second record Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You on February 1 in the UK and February 16 in North America – The Quietus has an interview with Dev Hynes about what to expect off of album number two. He’s also the guest vocalist on the new single from Basement Jaxx.