Live Review: Florence & The Machine/Holy Hail @ The Showbox 4/15

Review courtesy of our new writer Kitty Amsbry

Florence Welch appeared onstage at the Showbox last Thursday looking like an impossibly beautiful escapee from the mental ward, wielding a single drumstick like a magic wand. Cloaked in a gauzy white shawl, she began to ferociously beat on the lone drum before her, conjuring a spell that would embrace the audience in rapture for the rest of the night.

I’ve heard tales of what to expect from hearing Florence perform live, but was unprepared for such incredible range and control combined with the preternatural power of her voice. Opening with the appropriate “Howl,” the crowd seemed momentarily stunned by this pale apparition, but Florence’s disheveled, flame-red hair was the unnecessary visual cue that this was no ordinary singer. When the band swept into “Hurricane Drunk,” it became apparent that the crowd was full of die-hard fans, and by the staccato hand claps of the third song, “Between Two Lungs,” the relationship with the aurally intoxicated audience was consummated.

The band is called Florence and the Machine, and for good reason. The songs from the debut album were written over a long stretch of time and really quite disparate. In fact, few things about this band seem like they would work together. Unexpectedly, the enormous harp, the laconic keyboard and the all-business team of drums, guitar and bass come together dutifully, as if also under Florence’s spell.  The band is a precious but highly functional Rube Goldberg machine, whose sole function is to smoothly support feral lyrics and melodies that are at once ferocious and ethereal.

The set consisted entirely of songs from the band’s sole album “Lungs”, apart from what Florence described as their favorite song, the desperate “Hardest of Hearts”, which is available on a boxed set. As she poured forth the lyrics “there is love in your body but you can’t get it out, It gets stuck in your head, won’t come out of your mouth,” I found myself thinking that the purity and force of Florence’s voice is how we sound in our dreams, the musicals that play as nonsensical nightmares in our head. There is nothing forcing it. It just appears, as real as anything else.

The stage theatrics were as deft as they were daft, with Florence kicking off her high heels early on to let us know that she was here to party. Her naughty little-girl with proper London accent patter between songs reassured us that things would not get too heavy, that this was all about her having fun. In order for her to do that, the crowd needed to be a part of this machine, and they performed dutifully under the spell. During the encore consisting of the raucous “Kiss with a Fist” and “Rabbit Heart,” the fans heeded Florence’s call to “raise it up” by supporting her alabaster frame as she performed the most joyously demure stage dive I have ever witnessed.

The opening band, New York’s Holy Hail, served in hindsight as an appropriate under-painting to the impending masterpiece. Curiously lacking a bass player, they served up six songs with great enthusiasm, fronted by Cat Hartwell in a snappy blue shorts pantsuit. Watching her pump the microphone high in the air to the beat, I felt as if I was witnessing a bizarre, smoky Jazzercise class. The melodies were indiscernible, but Jesse Sposato’s skilled drumming kept the beat going until the end, with an unexpected nod to Jane’s Addiction’s “Jane Says.”

When all was said and done, each one of these elements came together to create an experience that few could imagine. Like the rest of the crowd at the sold-out venue, I was delighted to have spent the night letting Florence and the Machine work their magic.

*We apologize for no photos – there was an issue with the Venue or Artists that prevented us taking our usual killer shots!


~ by clickdagger on April 19, 2010.

One Response to “Live Review: Florence & The Machine/Holy Hail @ The Showbox 4/15”

  1. Nice job. I met them on the way out of the Showbox. Hard to miss Flo and the boys all had such heavy accents. They just smile and said hi. I wish I could have seen the show. Maybe next time.

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