After stepping in to headline Glastonbury in 2015, it’s been all quiet on the Florence & The Machine front. A radio silence over the past 3 years was broken by the news their 4th album would be released next month. Ahead of their upcoming support slots for none other than The Rolling Stones, Florence assembled her Machine for a trio of intimate shows in aid of the charity Shelter.
The stage of the Royal Festival Hall is adorned with flowers and trees, and as the band take their spots it’s as if they never really went away. From amongst the foliage, Florence greets her living fans with Between Two Lungs – a track from debut Lungs that is seldom performed live. The nostalgia trip is timely as next year marks 10 years since the release of Florence’s first record. Every older F&TM song holds very specific memories and feelings for people like myself who have been there from the very beginning.
Lead singles from the soon to be released fourth album; Hunger and Sky Full Of Song, follow one another in succession. By placing them after a track from each prior album is played, Florence signposts to her audience the progression she continues to make as an artist. One of the most rousing performances of Dog Days Are Over once again takes the crowd back to 2009, with friends new and old encouraged to embrace one another whilst simultaneously dancing in the aisles.
The previously unheard ode to Patti Smith; Patricia, is the first entirely new track of tonight’s set. The instrumentation is far less grand than Florence’s two most recent albums, the focus now seems to be on that limitless voice of hers. 100 Years really is the missing link between everything Florence has done so far. Taking the spirit of album one, the more complex strings of album two and the abandon of album three – this song leaves the audience open-mouthed and aghast at how talented the people before them are.
The entire show feels like one special moment, but to have finally heard album one bonus track Falling played live; was truly something else. Florence is able to take such emotional fragility and turn it into the most beautiful of sounds, all around the room there are friends embracing with gentle affection as if to reassure one another that even the most painful experiences can give way to something brilliant.
Florence employs the Royal Festival Hall organ on final song of the night; Shake It Out, which sees her reignite the old traditions of running through the crowd and getting up close and personal with her fans. The entire venue is on it’s feet, applauding and cheering with all their might what could potentially go down as one of their most memorable performances yet.
From recent interviews and these performances, Florence Welch seems to be owning her place in the world like never before. There is still a glimpse of the shy choir girl that we all fell in love with, but there is a new radiant joy powering Florence forward and no doubt towards her greatest work to date. On a personal note, I have seen Florence & The Machine 26 times, and this gig carried a very special significance to me and the friendships that I have made through this band over the last 10 years. There is nothing like your favourite band returning from the ether, and I for one cannot wait to be present for the next chapter.