Florence + The Machine, Shepherd's Bush Empire, London


Bewitched by a true siren

Few people can pull off the tousled hair and billowing-caped flower-power look these days. Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine, however, looks at home being all twitchy fingers and spiralling wrists, resplendent in some sort of diaphanous chiton. She is majestic, like John William Waterhouse's Circe, with the awestruck audience as her swine.

Her swine and her swains, that is, judging by the many shouted declarations of devotion that the singer received. And well she might, with a charisma and stage-presence rarely seen among the bouffanted popstrels or pierced mock-hellians that make up the ranks of modern-day frontwomen. Florence is like something from another time, when icons came from myths or altars, not TV talent contests.

In fact, this flame-haired Boudicca was discovered in a toilet, and she sang a cappella the song that won over her now-manager in the stalls. Hardly the most exciting of her set list, Etta James's "Something's Got a Hold on Me" nevertheless showcased Florence's epic range and perfect pitch to great effect. An acoustic segment proved similarly complementary – so much goes on in any given Florence + the Machine track (there are five of them, plus a string quartet, after all) that it is often hard to pay due attention to Florence's swooping and soaring vocals. But she sang "Hurricane Drunk", one of the real anthemic, rollicking power-numbers from her Mercury-nominated album, Lungs, accompanied only by a harp and a guitar. Starting alone, she managed to be consistently perfect when the instruments joined in. Her control and instinctual grasp of any given melody is as impressive as her performance style, which is a mesmerising mix of the slick and modern, and the goosebump-inducing arcane.

Florence's stage is bedecked with flower garlands and bracketed by two ornamental birdcages; she is like some greenwood deity, riding those volleys of thudding drums. Yet where a band of this size and volume, fronted by a singer with such an enviable set of pipes, could easily descend into a cacophonous mêlée of diverse rhythms and harmonies, Welch's Machine is a well-oiled one, and its constituent parts were neither drowned out nor deafening, crashing through high-octane numbers like "Howl" and "Drumming Song" with accomplished melodrama.

With a concert persona such as this, it is comforting – if slightly disappointing – to hear Florence so human, not to mention humble, as she chats between songs; she is girlish and, some might say, calculatedly overwhelmed by the attention she receives. There have been several comparisons already with Kate Bush, and Welch is certainly as weird, witchy and wistful as that other Babooshka, but she has an energy and vitality that other stage sirens in the indie category often lack. Welch – with her copious talent and gift for enthralling – is without doubt a star who is here to stay.

Arts and Entertainment
Loading individual letters on to an original Heidelberg printing press
Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

    'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

    In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
    VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

    How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

    Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
    They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

    Typefaces still matter in the digital age

    A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
    Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

    'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

    New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
    The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

    Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

    Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

    Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

    Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
    Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

    Crisp sales are in decline

    As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
    Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

    Ronald McDonald the muse

    A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
    13 best picnic blankets

    13 best picnic blankets

    Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
    Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

    Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

    Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
    Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

    Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'