Florence and the Machine
Monday, November 1
Better Outfits Than: The costumes everyone else wears on Halloween.
I refuse to see any more Harry Potter movies unless Florence Welch joins the cast, traipsing around Hogwarts or whatever just as she does on Terminal 5’s stage, wrapped in a flowing white dress with a long, elegant train that looks like a real pain in the ass to deal with in a rock-concert situation, but she handles it like a pro, twirling about and whacking a floor-tom with two drumsticks, thought she’s more inclined to use them as straight-up magic wands, conducting the crowd to go wooooooo! on cue. Here, then, is the British, boisterous, booming-voiced, crimson-haired arena-goth siren you requested. She brought along a dude who plays the harp.
Florence, this year’s who-dat attraction at the MTV Music Awards, rose to power via 2009’s Lungs, whereupon she wails with admirably Stevie Nicks-ian abandon over songs of casual menace and torch-song ethereality, that maelstrom reproduced here by a black-clad backing band (including the rock harpist guy! Who does not sound ridiculous in this context!) that wisely stays the hell out of the way. The bombastic “Drumming Song” (“Louder than sirens/Louder than bells/Sweeter than heaven/And hotter than hell”) is an early highlight, her voice a force of nature but in service of the song, not the singer, avoiding showoff-y Christina Aguilera HEYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY excess and simply thoroughly kicking ass instead.
She needs to record a full album of Heart covers immediately, in part because Heart’s songs are way better — most of Flo’s feel three times longer than they actually are, plodding laboriously toward huge mega-belting climaxes that satisfy anyway. Still, it’s a relief to seize upon, say, the late-breaking “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up),” a nice, brisk call-and-response number (prodding a rambunctious crowd that, either in spite of or because of its rampant enthusiasm, can’t clap on the beat for shit) that nicely rewrites “The Look of Love.” But she needs something even shorter, punchier, less labored, and she finally gets it with “Kiss With a Fist,” a two-minute near-punk ode to mutual domestic violence that’d make Joan Jett proud. Her big hit, the pop-soul shouter “Dog Days Are Over,” closes us out, but it’s anticlimax, though Flo does get the crowd to jump around in unison, which they’re way better at doing than clapping, for whatever reason. Everyone glides out of the joint on a wave of pixie dust. The inevitable Florence/Stevie Grammy duet is gonna be fantastic.
Critical Bias: I used to get these guys confused with Marina and the Diamonds, but that’s probably not going to happen again.
Overheard: Another marriage proposal, apparently.
Random Notebook Dump: I saw Ben from Lost walking his dog on my way back to the subway.
My Boy Builds Coffins
Girl With One Eye
Between Two Lungs
You’ve Got the Love
Strangeness and Charm
Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)
Heavy in Your Arms
Kiss With a Fist
Dog Days Are Over