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Florence and the Machine @ RAC Arena

w/ Marlon Williams and the Yarra Benders
Saturday, January 12, 2018


Florence Welch never fails to bring her own brand of exhilarating energy. Since her Perth debut at Laneway in 2010, which saw her climb the rigging and steal the show, we’ve been in love her madcap, Kate Bush-indebted delirium onstage.

The staging and production quality has gone up a notch in the nine years since, but not much else – if anything she’s gotten more eccentric. On Saturday night at her Oz tour opener and first show of 2019, it took just half a song of restraint before Welch unleashed her bare feet and started spinning like a whirling dervish about all corners of the stage. That song was June, first track on last year’s High as Hope album (her fourth) and when the beat dropped and lights started flashing, she was off. It felt like we were in for something special.

Marlon Williams

In fact we’d already seen something special: Marlon Williams and the Yarra Benders were the best support act to grace the RAC/ Perth Arena stage since The Pretenders supported Stevie Nicks. Whether solo with just a guitar, where his voice moved from croon to out and out wail filling the arena, to his band’s Bad Seed’s-like playing accompanying his Nick Cave strut, Williams is an act to be cherished live. There were no shortage of highlights as he touched on Party Boy and Nobody Gets What They Want Anymore from 2018 second album Make Way for Love, alongside older singles such as Vampire Again and an incredible cover of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ Portrait of a Man to close. Despite no video screens and little in the way of production, in many ways he stole the show.

The set design for Florence and the Machine was as stylish as ever; her eight-piece band’s instruments were largely built into something that resembled a continuous build of wooden palettes, shaped meticulously across the stage. Eating disorder single Hunger and first album title track Between Two Lungs kept the early momentum going, before Welch got the stalls to their feet to dance along to Only If for a Night (which isn’t a particularly dance-y song… ironically, following a longish break at the end, punters took their seats again for the high energy Queen of Peace).

South London Forever and Patti Smith dedication Patricia prompted long spoken word introductions. Welch commented on everything from her wild teenage years to toxic masculinity and Brexit, before emphasising the show’s theme of not giving up hope. “A revolution in consciousness starts with individuals,” she urged us to take note of, before asking everyone to hold hands, “just to make it as hippy as possible.”

Unfortunately the result wasn’t as transcendent as Flo might have liked and some of the airy fairy banter veered closer to new age wank than the inclusive vibes she was aiming for. And while getting punters to pocket their phones for Dog Days Are Over was a win, she had us pulling them out again to activate torches on Cosmic Love a few songs later, which seemed a little contradictory.

Also detrimental were the flags in momentum. Fair enough if you’re not going to play Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up), Spectrum, Drumming Song or You’ve Got the Love, but if you’re getting the crowd on their feet for Dog Days Are Over early on, throw in a Ship to Wreck straight after and give them a reason to stay there for a couple of songs, don’t leave long gaps when the audience is in the palm of your hand only to drop a number they’re not fussed by. Likewise if you’re going to keep them waiting five minutes for an encore, perhaps more than two songs are in order.

But these were small disappointments, and anyone who’s ever been to a Florence and the Machine show knows that when she really brings it, the feeling is ecstatic. A heaving dancefloor proved as much, and High as Hope tracks such as 100 Years and The End of Love sounded better live than on record. We were even treated to a total exclusive in the debut of brand new track Moderation (at least that’s the title we’re going with), which has since sent the internet into overdrive.

Indeed, the energy and enthusiasm Florence delivers is still as intoxicating as ever, and if on this tour that connection she strives for occasionally felt more out of reach, there was still plenty of reckless abandon as Welch ran through the crowd during Delilah, had us singing along to Ship to Wreck, rocked out to What Kind of Man, and got everyone exorcising their demons for Shake It Out. The confetti shower in the encore for the latter and Big God was just the icing on the cake.


Photos by Linda Dunjey, Cover pic by Linda Dunjey and Adrian Thomson



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