Florence and the Machine, Bloomsbury Ballroom, London

5.00

Lungs in perfect working order

On a stage littered with floral arrangements, in almost complete darkness, a solo drum beats repeatedly until a figure eerily emerges, draped in a floaty beige dress. She brings her arms up and the sleeves fall into place like wings, a raven-haired bird-like creature standing in front of us. And then the voice comes. A series of ethereal, high pitched "oohs", which immediately give you goosebumps. She is Florence Welch and she's here to save you from the weary, stale and flat concert-going experience.

The singing dynamo has yet to release her debut album but is probably already surprised by just how much the mainstream has embraced her. The 22-year-old from south London was the winner of this year's Brits Critics' Choice Award, won last year by another girl with a big voice, Adele. She sung in various choirs growing up, started writing songs aged 13, before drunkenly singing to her now manager in a club toilet, and was thrust onto the live circuit.

Her macabre subject matter has garnered a lot of attention. The world she seems to inhabit is not life as we know it, but rather that of the Brothers Grimm... in outer space. After the opener "Between Two Lungs", she performs "Hurricane Drunk", "Girl with One Eye" and "Howl" in quick succession. Or as she charters it: "From drinking yourself to death, to cutting out a girl's eye to eating someone's heart."

Those who caught her earlier live shows or listened to her original songs posted online, and are familiar with a more folky, bluesy sound, may be surprised by the path that Florence has skipped down. Her camp has taken their time with her, experimenting with sounds and delving into different territories. Producers Paul Epworth (Bloc Party) and James Ford (Klaxons, Arctic Monkeys) have honed a completely original, eclectic noise that acts like a journey through soul music. On the album, Lungs, aptly named not only for her billowing voice but also her almost medieval preoccupation with body parts, we are treated to classic bluesy soul, disco soul, even Nineties vocal house music. The original raw and messy sound has been banished and replaced with something that is solid, gutsy, passionate and powerful.

Although, obviously, other strong experimental female acts such as Kate Bush and Björk have paved the way for her, there's little point in comparing her to anyone else, if for no other reason than she switches genres of music and style with ease, leaving it impossible to pigeon-hole her. "Kiss with a Fist" exposes her mighty voice and is guitar happy while "Dog Days Are Over" comes complete with harps, violins and clapping.

Probably the best song of the night is her upcoming single, "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)". It starts as some kind of Alice in Wonderland-set bohemian dance tune but by the time you get to the chorus it reaches epic proportions and you're in euphoric tribal, house music territory as she urgently belts out: "This is a gift, it comes with a price/Who is the lamb and who is the knife?/Midas is King and he holds me so tight/And turns me to gold in the sunlight". Live, it is helped along by Florence dancing crazily in front of a strobe light and it is quite a moment.

For most of the night, the audience don't really move, or dance. They are all transfixed at what is going on on stage. She hollers, twirls, struts, clambers on to speakers and dives into the audience. Her live show blows the other girls of 2009 out of the water, in terms of the calibre of songs and stage presence. But it is her voice that will really take Florence to the top. Those incredible lungs.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits