Concert Review | Florence and The Machine shines amidst production issues
Published: Thursday, September 20, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 20, 2012 02:09
Florence Welch’s breathtaking live vocals don’t need any tuning up. Unfortunately, her Machine is in desperate need of a mechanic.
The fiery-haired songstress kicked off the third North American leg of her Ceremonials Tour at the Comcast Center in Mansfield, Mass. last week. The production was fraught with technical issues that overshadowed Florence and The Machine’s intimate performance style.
The massive amphitheater was adorned with an art-deco chapel straight out of Oz’s Emerald City. Welch’s entrance in a flowing caftan under hazy, purple light foreshadowed the evening’s otherworldly ambiance.
The group entertained a packed crowd for the better part of two hours with hits from their latest album, “Ceremonials” (2011), as well as their first studio release, “Lungs” (2009). Mansfield erupted for some of the band’s biggest hits, including “Shake It Out,” “Cosmic Love” and its rousing finale, “Dog Days Are Over.”
In addition to the band’s super-hits, Welch experimented with some acoustic versions of popular songs, including the hauntingly romantic “Never Let Me Go,” and even added a dubstep-esque interlude to “Spectrum.” Florence and The Machine’s set list left out deeper cuts like “Hurricane Drunk” and “Kiss with a Fist,” and instead showcased newer tracks like “No Light, No Light” and “All This and Heaven Too.”
However, the show’s strong set list could not make up for the blaring technical difficulties that riddled the entire performance. Most of all, the evening was a huge letdown in the most essential aspect of a concert experience: sound quality.
It was often difficult to hear Welch’s crooning because her microphone stopped working or background singers drowned out her voice. On occasion, unnecessary reverberation effects soured her enchanting vocals.
Most of the band was in need of another sound-check — the sets were marred by unpleasant feedback and echoed strangely throughout the evening. The bass and percussion sound quality was more on par with a middle school gymnasium’s, not an international tour’s.
For those with cheaper tickets, it would have been impossible to even see Welch since the images on the video screens were frequently unfocused, blown-out or zoomed-in on the lead singer’s crotch.
Welch’s whole “Machine” seemed unprepared for the gig. Back-up singers forgot lyrics and spotlights tracked her at the wrong time. Welch herself was barely able to pronounce the venue’s name — “Hello, Mahnsfeyulled!”
Nonetheless, Welch thrived off the crowd’s energy. The siren seemed gleefully possessed, as if she were overcome by her love for the music and her fans.
Onstage, Welch resembled an introspective scarecrow on acid. She flowed and jerked through ballads and often seemed to forget that there were thousands of individuals watching. It was as if she were performing just for herself, and the audience was lucky enough to come along for the ride. This created an altogether eerily intimate concert-going experience.
In moments of awareness, Florence and The Machine was able to engage with the whole venue on a personal level. Welch maternally guided concertgoers through the show, transmitting the deep personal meaning of songs and re-energizing with the shared experiential connection with her fans.
Welch galloped across the expansive space trying to make the amphitheater feel interactive — even making an unexpected lap skipping around the crowd during “Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up).” As if she had fallen down a rabbit hole herself, Welch nonchalantly told her fans at one point, “You’re going to sacrifice one another. It’s going to be lovely.”
Altogether, Welch’s unusual performance style is worth experiencing, if only to catch a glimpse of how much performing means to her or to take in one mind-blowing note. Let’s just hope she checks the Machine into a body shop along the way.