Florence Welch, I love you. Seeing Florence + The Machine live at Auckland's Trusts Stadium was a marvelous show by one of the most promising young new musicians out there.
One of my favorite albums of 2009 was Florence + The Machine's debut "Lungs," which showcases Welch's remarkable magpie talent. It's a disc that draws back on '80s alterna-pop, run together with a modern gloss and strong vivid storytelling imagery.
She's boiled together the essence of several great women singers such as Kate Bush, Cat Power, Siouxsie and Fiona Apple, although her voice reminds me the most of vintage Sinead O'Connor with that mix of power and honesty. She can bellow the hell out of a note, but she can also manage whispers, snarls and coos, which to me is a sign of her strength. And the killer part? She's only 23.
Clearly, she's struck a nerve -- the audience at Trusts Stadium was full of young women singing along to every word of her doomy love songs and waving their hands in the air. Florence proved a marvelous live performer who was by turns art-school dramatic, sweet and charming and a howling banshee. And from this bloke's pespective, sexy as all get out dancing on stage barefoot in a swirling black dress. There's something about Florence's best songs like "Hurricane Drunk" or "My Boy Builds Coffins" - they sound like diary entries, full of raw passion and feeling, but she doesn't quite cross the line into being too overwrought and sentimental. There's a sincere intensity to the best of her work which puts shame to the "American Idol" school of singing where you wring the life out of every single note.
Highlights of seeing Florence live included a stunning entrance with "The Drumming Song," where Florence methodically beat a single drum to start the show; a great snarling take on her "Rabbit Heart," and a gorgeous shimmering backdrop of glowing stars to "Cosmic Love." She also previewed a great rousing song from her in-the-works second album, "Strangeness and Charm," which if anything shows her songwriting is just getting better. And I ain't a fan of this whole "Twilight" thing, but her contribution to the "Eclipse" soundtrack, "Heavy In My Arms," was a gloomy brooding delight.
She was clearly having a hell of a time, chatting up the audience at the end and reluctant to end the show. I'm eager to see where she goes next.