Florence And The Machine @ Hackney Empire – 25/10/11

Since it’s fairly common knowledge that tix for last night’s Florence And The Machine show sold out in a matter of seconds, I felt pretty fortunate to be on the ground floor of the Hackney Empire, mingling amongst all the folks patiently yet patently eager to “see Red”. And then suddenly, the curtain rose swifly and there they were — Gingerlocks and her Eight Bearers of good tunes, ready to rock in their only UK show for 2011, which was also being streamed live, for a small fee. Florence herself kept gushing about how glad she was to be back in London, and her frequent gleeful pirouettes punctuated the point.

She also made mention of the fact that she was a bit nervous — this was after all, an official debut of new material from Ceremonials, the enormously-anticipated follow-up to Lungs. The nerves were understandable; as much as everyone seemed to be looking forward to new stuff, you could practically see the comic-book-thought-bubbles over the crowd’s heads: “But will she also play ‘Dog Days’?”

She did actually, not even saving it for an encore. She also injected an invigorating dose of ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up)’. And as for the new songs, they prove beyond a doubt Florence still has lungs. I can’t imagine what it must be like to be able to do what she does with her voice, let alone to sustain that power for over an hour. My personal faves of the new offerings were ‘Lover To Lover’, which according to Ms Welch, is the only song on Ceremonials that isn’t about guilt, and the closer for the night ‘No Light, No Light’, which definitely contains one of the more memorable melodies.Interspersed with surprises like a harp interlude and the appearance of Kid Harpoon for new tune ‘Leave My Body’, the time flew by, the way it tends to do when you are gazing into a fire.

Put simply, if you are a Florence fan (Flan?) you are going to appreciate the new album; it’s more Florence, more Machine, and really, that’s more than enough. If you aren’t a fan, well, then at least you won’t have to worry about booking tickets for future gigs within the first minute they go on sale. Ceremonial was released yesterday on Halloween. Prepare to be bewitched once again.

Photo: PA