Florence + the Machine – Genting Arena, Birmingham

Florence + the Machine have come incredibly far in a short time from their performance at the second capital’s ramshackle O2 academy with tour companions The xx. Tonight they headline the Genting Arena for a second time and appear more confident than ever faced with a crowd of near 20,000. As the mournful strings of ‘What the Water Gave Me’ begin to ring around the venue the atmosphere is notably charged as the woman of the hour steps out. Styled somewhere between Stevie Nicks and Anni Lynstag, a demonic quality in her eyes and a presence that assures complete domination of her surroundings and platform.

Similarly to her triumphant headlining performance at Glastonbury she gleefully runs side to side during this ode to Virginia Wolf. She retains perfect pitch until the final unnerving tones lead succinctly into ‘Ship To Wreck’ which is bellowed pack by a thousand strong choir section. Florence barely has to request aid during ‘Shake It Out’ as every audience member is behind her and the band as thumping percussion permeates a joyous and ethereal singalong of this timeless anthem.

The last stop here for ‘Ceremonials’ was darkened by numerous personal issues so it is reassuring to see the leading lady appear confident within herself and the new material. She talks candidly with her devoted following before introducing the title track to this album which is surprisingly sang back with equal force to the global hits. The new material has further promise as ‘Mother’ demonstrates divine vocal prowess of another order beneath an amber sun. ‘Queen of Peace’ offers theatrical bombast as this truly extraordinary collation of backing musicians take centre stage for dizzying crescendo. The band may now be of global headlining stature however Welch and co continually disregard redundant production values allowing stark, powerful tracks such as ‘Delilah’ to shine as brightly as the simplistic glittered background.

The setlist is punctuated with weighty hymnals including ‘Cosmic Love’ ‘You’ve Got the Love’ and ‘Spectrum’ all of which seem capable to close the show numerous times with the inclusion of a brass section enhancing the lofty production values. It is new songs including ‘What Kind of Man’ that truly surprise and entice as Florence obliterates the boundaries between patron and performer and climbs atop the loyal following whilst her machine holds pace with expert dexterity. The running order is evidently unusual for tonight’s show although with the tour title of ‘How Big’ it alludes to a couple more to follow where tracks including ‘Third Eye’ may find themselves thrust upon these prestigious stages.

As Florence commands the gushing crowd to remove clothing, embrace and celebrate mutual love during ‘Dog Days Are Over’ the sheer ethereal quality of this gig makes complete sense as this bare footed vixen embodies free spirit and peace that human nature fundamentally associates with. Welch once again wistfully leads you into her spellbinding and spectral world yet the metaphorical devils and witchcraft have been set aside. In place there are personal, swelling songs that express a band in development with so much sonic reach they manipulate the space around them and fill every inch of these gargantuan venues. The voice is big, the background blue and the show absolutely beautiful.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *