Live Review: Florence + The Machine @ The Olympia, 3rd May 2010

Posted: 02/11/2010 in Uncategorized

***As published on on May 6th 2010***

When Florence and her mighty machine roll into town they certainly don’t do so quietly. The May bank holiday weekend double-header at the Olympia was preceded by what can only be described as a ticket FRENZY. It is testament to the band’s artistic integrity that they’re taking to the stage in the intimate surrounds of the Olympia – truth be told, they probably could’ve packed out The O2 for a night or two given the chance. With all tickets for the two dates having been sold within mere seconds of going on sale, there was an air of gratitude amongst the capacity crowd in the Olympia on Monday night – all happy to be there, and all expecting greatness.

Brooklyn’s The Drums take to the stage to warm up the crowd – and do so with great gusto. Initially the audience don’t quite seem to know what to make of them – the jumping, the flamboyant guitar techniques, and the very interesting use of a tambourine – but soon enough lead man Jonathan Pierce commands the crowd’s attention as he struts around the stage belting out one catchy tune after another. “Stay tuned for Florence” he advises as the band leaves the stage – as if the crowd had forgotten why they were there!

Shortly after 9PM the red velvet curtains part to reveal The Machine in all its glory – and soon after Florence Welch floats onto the stage to an absolutely rapturous reception. Looking stunning in a floating white gown, she greets her adoring public modestly and it’s straight into Howl – an excellent choice for the opening number which sends the crowd wild from the get-go, and immediately quashes any doubters who believe that Welch’s vocals don’t hold up live.

There have been some changes made since Florence’s last outing to the Olympia in December – a re-jigged set list, a more elaborate stage setup, and an extravagant lighting display which is particularly impressive during an almost tribal-like performance of Drumming. But the most important change of all is the addition of a six-piece strings section. The ever-popular singles from Lungs are always going to please the crowd and encourage a mass sing-along; but the strings really set the less-revered album tracks free – the performance of Between Two Lungs, for example, is quite simply epic. Equally epic is Florence’s voice – it barely falters, and its sheer power is truly showcased during Girl With One Eye.

A temporary reprieve for the frenzied audience is granted with the introduction of a new song for only the second time (the first being during the previous night’s gig). Titled Strangeness & Charm, it runs at a lengthy seven minutes but is instantly catchy and will temporarily stave off doubts that Lungs is a one-off masterpiece that the band can never replicate – a vote of confidence for fans who may worry as Florence takes a break from the stage at the end of the summer festival circuit to start work on that difficult second album.

From there, its fan favourites all the way to close out the set – a stripped-down rendition of You’ve Got the Love builds to a dramatic climax; and just before the crowd can settle down after it the opening bars of Dog Days Are Over are played out on the harp to an absolutely hysteric response. It’s party time in the Olympia. Florence relishes in the reception the song receives, egging the crowd on as she clambers on top of speakers to dictate moshing orders from a height.

The noise doesn’t even subside when the band vacate the stage for brief yet well-earned break. They return – with Florence having slipped into something a little more comfortable – to close out the set with energetic encore performances of Kiss With A Fist and Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up).

It’s all over, and I reckon you’d be hard pressed to find an attendee who didn’t think they got their money’s worth and so much more. A simply amazing performance from a band who will only continue to go from strength to strength, and a front-woman who can captivate audiences like no other. Best get the Oxegen tickets bought now…

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