show recap: florence and the machine
  • FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2009

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Photography by Liz Colville. Check out more photos from this show and others HERE.

Florence Welch's voice is an uncut diamond. It can be pitchy, as Randy likes to say, but its boldness makes up for those rough-hewn moments. Some people are not fond of the 23-year-old's maximalist style. She lies on the exact opposite end of the spectrum as her peers The xx, whom some people also find annoying (for the opposite reason). Their music is very different, of course, but the two acts are rising at the same time, across summer festivals in the U.K. and U.S. and headlining fall appearances in the U.S.

Welch is herself on stage: dramatic, a little awkward and gangly, modest and completely absorbed in her music. She deserves a better production than was given her last night at the Bowery Ballroom. Her own vocals were effects-less, which is odd for such an effectsy album as Lungs, the microphone was too loud, and that heady harp had to vie with bass, drums, and of course the singer herself. Most of the time this didn't matter. Welch gave stunners like "Cosmic Love" some extra attention with little inflections and romantic gestures. These didn't suffer from sound issues, but they also didn't deviate much from the recorded album.

Still, she showed off when she wanted to, and the John Singer Sargent-like arrangement of hydrangeas, translucent angel dress, bird-pattern backdrop and twinkly mirrorball effects fit perfectly with songs like "Cosmic Love" or the opener, "Lungs." "Kiss With A Fist," on the other hand, and as Ryan Dombal pointed out in the Voice this morning, made little sense, except in that it was another opportunity for Welch to pull out all the stops, both physically and musically.

"Kiss With A Fist" is a strange and very permanent fixture of the Welch repertoir, undoubtedly because it was the first song she wrote before being snatched up by a major label and a batch of producers. So the problem on stage is just the problem with the album, rendered organically before us: it's stylistically a bit all over the place, with the only consistency being Welch's voice. But the voice just doesn't need all that percussive and synthy fortification around it.

There are moments of inventiveness and sophistication on 'Lungs' that feel definitively Welch's. But we're left to wonder what might have happened if she'd been completely left to her own devices and gone the route of, say, a Holly Miranda, who, hiding under bangs, couldn't disguise the force of her brooding folk music in the opening set last night. - liz colville






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Pictures: Florence And The Machine @ Bowery Ballroom
Florence And The Machine On Myspace

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