It’s a chilly and rainy day in Paris and, although it’s only 16:30 and the gates aren’t supposed to open until two hours later, people have already lined up in front of the Zenith, huddling together under their umbrellas and slowly singing the chorus to their favorite songs. I love the vibe before a big concert; it has that unmistakable feeling of calm before the storm. My wife and I have come to see Florence and the Machine who are nearing the end of their long and probably exhausting Ceremonials tour and have just a few venues left to play. I’m wondering if and in what way that will impact the band’s performance since they all (especially lead singer Florence Welch) have a very high-octane style which I imagine must really take its toll on them physically and mentally. (here’s Florence talking, among other things, about that time of the tour where she just cries all the time because she’s tired). Well, we had been waiting to see them for the better part of a year and they are my wife’s favorite band so I was obviously (and selfishly) hoping for a performance that wouldn’t be too negatively impacted by fatigue. As it would turn out, my fears were unnecessary.
The night opened with English band Spector who I had not heard of before and who did a very decent job of warming up the crowd with some nice music and some well-timed humor (“If you’ll be nice enough to clap we’ll be nice enough to leave the stage”). Even though they are not necessarily my personal cup of tea when it comes to music (I’m a bit of a snob that way) I have to give credit where credit’s due and the band was good. I’ve checked out their stuff since returning home so I guess you could say their performance was a success. I recommend giving a listen to “Friday Night, Don’t Ever Let It End”, “Celestine”, “Never Fade Away” and “Grey Shirt and Tie”
After Spector left and the stage was being set for Florence and the Machine you could imagine the grandeur of the upcoming show already from the elaborate set, befitting the taste of the very theatrical Florence. Now, we come from a part of the world where it’s a bit more difficult to see internationally famous bands at the height of their popularity and it’s always an amazing experience to see the effort and money that goes into the whole show, from the setting to the lights and video, everything planned in such way as to experience it on different levels of perception. Florence and the band started the much anticipated show with their customary opener, “Only If For a Night” and from the moment she set foot on stage and I got a glimpse of her face I felt my fears were going to materialize for she looked terribly exhausted and worn-out. When she first started singing I got the uncomfortable feeling that she was just “going through the motions” for the hundredth time this year which I felt was understandable, though very unfortunate, with her charm and charisma usually an integral part of the experience of watching her perform. A few minutes into the song it was clear that the fatigue that had built up after a long and exhausting tour, though evident on her face was not felt in her art. Her voice was spot-on, with all the inconsistencies and imperfections that make up its charm, and her delivery was perfect as always. They continued on with “What The Water Gave Me” and “Drumming Song” and, by the time the latter was over, Florence’s look of exhaustion had evaporated leaving behind the expression of serene joy she usually exhibits when performing, a testament to the love with which this vocalist abandons herself in her music. This has always been the most important factor in the “magic” of her performances and I was immensely happy to see that it had not faded away even after a long year’s work.
Now, I want to specify that I try to be as objective as I can when it comes to this young band especially since my wife is so enamored with Florence that she’d b happy to just listen to her reading the menu from a Hungarian restaurant so I always struggle to not let that elation rub off on my when I review their records or, as is the case here, their concerts. It’s tough though to not get carried away with praise when witnessing the effort that has been put in their performance (again I must especially laud drummer Christopher Lloyd Hayden whose work I always enjoy greatly) and their desire to give the fans every pennies’ worth. The praise-train doesn’t stop here as they followed with “Cosmic Love” in my opinion their best track and one of the best in the modern pop/rock scene. Needless to say the crowd went nuts and remained in that state of “nuts” throughout the rest of the concert which consisted of their best songs in the following order: “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)”, “You’ve Got The Love”, “Lover To Lover”, “Heartlines”, “Leave My Body” and “Shake It Out” with a barefoot Florence giving an extraordinary and very physical performance as always with lots of running around, twisting and twirling and jumping up and down like a ballerina on ‘roid-rage, and I mean that as the highest compliment. Her display on stage is always very entertaining to watch and is usually one of the reasons you would go to such a concert instead of just staying home and blasting the speakers. They closed with an intense performance of No Light, No Light and left the stage to a standing ovation. Of course the crowd didn’t let them off the hook so easily and demanded an encore with such force that I almost felt the venue shaking. After what felt like a pretty lengthy break the band returned for said encore which they started with “Sweet Nothing” a track that is collaboration between Florence and Scottish DJ Calvin Harris. They continued with their hugely popular and fairly recent single “Spectrum” and finished with the song that has meanwhile become the band’s undisputed anthem, the instantly recognizable and hard to forget Dog Days Are Over.
We left the venue that evening with my wife celebrating one of the best days of her life and myself thoroughly pleased with a truly commendable performance on the end of an amazingly successful year and tour for this talented young band. Florence and the Machine are definitely worth seeing live and I would recommend their shows wholeheartedly.