Florence + The Machine: ‘This is not one of those shows’

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Florence + The Machine: ‘This is not one of those shows’

I first saw Florence + The Machine many years ago in a German industrial museum, shadowed beneath a 30-metre tall bucket-wheel excavator.

Florence Welch was by far the more formidable of the pairing, a feat that hasn’t diminished one iota.

The moment the audience caught a glimpse of her iconic red locks at Rod Laver Arena – illuminated in a halo, this time – people around me burst into tears.

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Most pop stars have a tangible stage presence but Florence is one of very few that has a definite aura, stemming mostly from her incredibly powerful three-octave mezzo-soprano, but also from her singular, awe-inspiring appearance (which she’s flaunted to full effect throughout the whole bohemian regal vibe on Dance Fever).

If you look at Florence’s catalogue, you can actually visualise her transition from self-assured indie folk into full-throttle stadium baroque pop. Although I’ve never heard atmospheric pop with those kind-of jagged guitar riffs and four-to-the-floor rock ambience.

She exudes power on stage in every aspect of her performance and the audience falls in line. Just like in Germany, she demands they pocket their phones – “this is not one of those shows” – and they hurriedly oblige. She descends from the stage and cups individual audience members in her hands, serenading them as they cry and devote their love. She even asks for human sacrifices and admits the whole thing seems a bit like a “cult” – easy to understand when you figure plenty of that front row follow her internationally.

The aesthetics, chiffon gown aside, are kept notably simplistic for a show of this size. There are no special effects, bar Florence running around on her tippy-toes to create the illusion of floating. The Machine behind her are also restrained, shrouded in darkness.

The whole two-hour production is so confident in its ability to control the audience’s emotions that rather than a setlist that builds momentum throughout, it constantly explodes to life with massive, rocking numbers like What Kind of Man, before lulling us back into Florence’s acapella.

The effect is that you never really know what’s coming next, and given Florence has enough major international hits to fill three or four shows of this length, the surprise is always an enthralling one.

Florence plays another Melbourne show tonight, grab tickets to that and every other remaining date on the Australian tour before they sell out here.