Live Review

Florence & The Machine, White Lies, Liverpool University

It’s become tradition that the band opening the annual NME Awards Tour goes onto great things.

It’s become tradition that the band opening the annual NME Awards Tour goes onto great things (Coldplay and Ting Tings have both played first in the past). The other notable factor for the first band on the bill is that nobody ever gets to see them. Well that may be an exaggeration but a good percentage of the crowd are stuck in queuing gridlock outside the venue as 2009’s chosen one Florence And The Machine takes to the stage.

Now working as a five piece (a harpist and keyboard player joined last Summer) Florence’s stage show is sturdier and more in depth than previously, giving ample backing to her outstanding voice. Said voice is what sets Florence Welch aside from her numerous rivals, you can play the Tenori-On or channel the 80’s as much as you like but until you can sing like that then quite frankly you might as well go home. The crowd inevitably go wild for ‘Kiss With A Fist’ but you can’t help feeling that is the weakest song in her set. A pop-punk riot it may be but it does very little different or idiosyncratic in the way ‘Girl With One Eye’ does for example. Lifted in the live arena, the soulful tale of reeking scissor based revenge on a love rival and crackles with sharp violence and an underlying sense of sadness. This segues neatly into the good Florence single, ‘Dog Days’. With its slow build up and stampeding chorus the song showcases the numerous strings to her bow (besides the harpist stage left) and creates a sense of wild abandon in the University hall. The set ends with a new song from the forthcoming and much anticipated album. It’s an odd song to end the show being that it is almost a ballad, coming off the back of two fast paced songs it’s adjusts the tone somewhat considerably. However all is forgotten when the song reaches, as Florence calls it, “really intense bit” - guitars crash against drums and orchestral swellings as Florence launches herself off the stage and into the crowd below. It’s an impressive sight and the audience accompany the bands exit with rapturous applause. The achievement of the show opener will almost certainly carry on in 2009.

After spending half an hour waiting to get served at the bar (seriously, if you can’t cater an event don’t book a massive show) many of the crowd gathered are tied between liquid refreshment and this weeks number one band in the country White Lies. Those who choose the show are treated to a clinical display in stadium ambition and the occasional killer tune. White Lies’ ascent to the top has been anything but a surprise. Having gone from the band you confused with tonight’s penultimate act Friendly Fires in their days as Fear Of Flying, they have re-emerged as blacker than the night anthem manufacturers. This skill is demonstrated perfectly with the opening salvo ‘Unfinished Business’, a swelling, almost holy track with a big chorus on top of a driving musical underlay. The band themselves are all dressed in the full waiting staff uniform (sans apron) and stand static on the stage opting to let the music do the talking for them. That is perhaps their only mistake though. You can’t fault the music beyond a subjective level, they are good songs played well, if you don’t like them that is fine but you can’t dispute their craft or scale of ambition. However the lack of warmth or earnestness creates less of a performance and more of a staid attempt at being a band. The electronic beat of ‘To Lose My Life’ builds into a foot tapping crescendo and the heart-string tugging ‘Fifty On Our Foreheads’ impresses but little else is conjured here tonight. As the show ends with the appropriate ‘Death’ you can’t help feeling you have witnessed everything and nothing. The ascent of White Lies is probably the beginning of something, but more so it is the end so much more.

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