Florence and the Machine at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver, April 14 2010
- review by Shawn Conner/photo by Lana Maytak
The Commodore Ballroom is probably starting to seem like a second home for avid Vancouver concert-goers; from Corinne Bailey Rae (Friday, April 9) to Sia (Sat) to Passion Pit (Sun) to Miike Snow (Mon) to the XX (Tues), the last several days have seen a cornucopia of talent light up the venerable institution’s stage. Having only attended the previous night’s (the XX) show, I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty certain none of those shows could’ve quite prepared anyone for Florence and the Machine‘s Vancouver debut.
Full disclosure: I feel I was too distracted for the first half of the show to give a full accounting. I can say that a friend was very excited to hear “Hardest of Hearts”, her fave track off Florence and the Machine‘s debut Lungs; but it wasn’t until mid-point that I was able to retreat to the side of the room for some much-needed perspective.
By then, the London-based Florence Welch was directing her six-piece band and 900+ audience into the high energy portion of the evening, which included soulful pop juggernauts “Dog Days Are Over” and “You’ve Got the Love”.
A day before, I’d been told Welch wasn’t doing day-of-show interviews so she could preserve her voice, which I thought was just a line because the record company was worried I’d demand she follow me on Twitter (sorry, Sia!). But after hearing the flame-haired singer howl these tunes, I can see the wisdom of saving it all for the show, especially these final, phenomenal moments.
After a brief pause, Florence and the Machine returned with “Kiss With a Fist”, their best-known song and, live, a truly killer, aggressive rocker, and “Rabbit Heart”. With nothing but a debut album to draw from, Welch and her band made every moment count, and squeezed the most drama, emotion and humanity they could from each song, leaving us to wonder: if she’s this good at 23, why doesn’t everyone else just stop?
Holy Hail drove nearly 40 hours, from Chicago (where the New York four-piece had opened for Florence and the Machine two nights before) to make the show. Fronted by the alluring Cat Hartwell, the group’s half-hour set began with a moody, shifting opener and moved to, among other songs, the tough New York singalong pop of “Good Intentions”.
The set ended with a sweet, nostalgic portion of Jane’s Addiction‘s “Jane Says”; if the band was exhausted from all that driving, the musicians didn’t show it.