English songsmith Florence Welch brought her “machine” and a fully packed house with her to Atlantic City's Borgata Event Center this past Saturday, May 12. Known for her exuberant and over-the-top stage shows, it was clear the audience was tingling with excitement from the minute you entered the venue.
Before I go on to describe the main event, I have to mention the act that started the evening. Opening the show was long-time collaborator and songwriter Blood Orange (aka Dev Hynes). Being entirely unfamiliar with his solo work, I was pleasantly surprised by this one-man-band. Using a table full of pedals, switches, MacBooks and drum-machines, Mr. Hynes filled the auditorium with strange and unusual electro-pop-rock that reminded me of equal parts Depeche Mode and Bloc Party. I believe in giving credit where credit is due … this guy had the entire audience's attention and received a swell of applause between each song. By the time he left the stage, I'm sure he made many new fans, myself included.
At around 9pm, across a screaming crowd, the lights dimmed, the fog rolled out, and the Machine took their places on stage. The stage design was decidedly art deco, a look consistent with the band's most recent release Ceremonials. Slowly, deliberately, the music began to swell like a church choir. As they reached their crescendo, a light began to glow behind a translucent wall at the rear of the stage. Through the frosted glass, looking something like a ghost, Florence began to materialize and sang the opening lyrics to “Only If For a Night.”
Powerful doesn't even begin to articulate the effect this band has live. They are like a force of nature, led by an ethereal sorceress from someplace not of this earth. Hypnotic is more accurate, but this is really one of those shows that needs to be seen to be truly appreciated. Welch was charming and conversational throughout the entire evening, even graciously accepting gifts from her front-row fans.
The set list swung between their first release Lungs and their latest offering, favoring the latter for a good portion of the show. That being said, I doubt a single fan would say they were disappointed with the song choices they made. It was solid from beginning to end, climbing to dramatic emotional heights with “Dog Days and Heartlines” to the crushing lows of “No Light No Light” and the unstoppable dance power of “Spectrum and Shake It Out.”
As a matter of fact, this set was so good, my only complaint was that it wasn't longer. Clocking in at about an hour and a half, it was just long enough, but they could have played another three hours and nobody would have left the theater. Then again, the band has only produced two albums worth of material to date so their options are somewhat limited.
When the lights came back up, there wasn't a single face in the crowd that wasn't thrilled. There are some concerts that are less of a show and more of an experience. This is one of those. The brilliant cocktail of lights, sound, movement and emotion shooting off of the stage was mesmerizing. Put simply, DO NOT miss this show next time they're around.
Only If For a Night
What the Water Gave Me
Between Two Lungs
Lover to Lover
Leave My Body
Shake it Out
Never Let me Go
No Light No Light
"I recall experiencing the Smiths during its Queen Is Dead tour in 1985 at the Tower Theater and there were plenty of empty seats. Morrissey, performing with a faux hearing aid, was thrilled collecting endless gladiolas. He was a young, brilliant, original frontman. "
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