It’s not that Florence Welch has a machine; rather, she is the machine. The 20-year-old London singer twirls onto the stage, arms held high, and storms through 13 songs in her short set like a whirling dervish, knocking her audience sideways with a soul blues voice that can rival Sixties Motown singers, never mind her peers.
Welch is the latest young female soul singer to have record labels running after her with chequebooks. From her assured performance tonight, you’d think she’d been doing this for years. Her songs are often elaborately arranged, shifting between vocal and instrumental parts and containing a dose of idiosyncrasy that sets her apart from her contemporaries. “Kiss With a Fist” (which she insists on her MySpace site is not about domestic violence) is her first single on uber-cool label Moshi Moshi, but it’s not her best.
“Bird Song”, her opener tonight, is more impressive. Beginning with hauntingly compelling a capella vocals, it bursts into a stomping song with a sparse tribal beat as she shakes her long hair energetically, her powerful vocals defying her waif-like figure. “Girl with One Eye” and “Hospital Beds” also display her blues stripes. Intriguingly for a new artist, many of tonight’s songs are covers, her version of MGMT’s “Electric Feel” proving she can do popstar as well as quirky singer.