16 Feb 2019
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Gig Review: Florence and The Machine @ Spark Arena, Auckland - 30/01/2019

31 Jan 2019 // A review by Paul Goddard

I caught the tail end of Yellow Days set at Laneway so was pleased to see a full performance at Auckland's Spark Arena tonight. The sunlight was replaced by stage light and the first thing that comes across is that mellow, baritone of a voice.

Yellow Days are not necessarily a band you need to keep focused on. In fact, many times I find myself closing my eyes and just getting submerged in the gentle waves of reflective lyrics as they float out over the arena.

Not many 19 year olds' would site Ray Charles as one of their main influences but George Van Den Broek is channeling something more than most 19 year old. This is an old soul in a young body with a voice to match.

He has mentioned how nowadays people can feel so comfortable most of the time that even just day to day issues can set them off kilter and lead to anxiety and depression. He isn't the first artist to use music as a channel to help him get through life but his is a positive message.

The songs float and his way of putting soulful, bluesy R'n'B through a blender laced with trip hop rhythms and an indie guitar vibe is woozily intoxicating. It is perfectly highlighted in Gap in The Clouds. If you want to check Yellow Days out that song is a good place to start.

Yellow Days are the perfect warm up for what is about to follow, and they leave behind an appreciative crowd of new fans

This is my first time at a Florence and The Machine gig unlike most people here tonight. She has been over before, headlining Laneway Festival back in 2010 and last time was around 3 years ago. Spark Arena isn't just busy tonight it is packed to the rafters, any dog days for Florence and The Machine are well and truly over.

There are no walls of speakers or amps onstage as the most powerful instrument tonight is Florence's voice.

She runs onstage, barefoot, on tip toes, cream dress billowing in the wind of the strategically placed fans and that voice immediately shines. Hearing Florence sing live is an unforgettable experience. I have never heard such clarity, power and control. She rarely stands still but even while moving that voice never falters. As she sings "I am so high I can see an angel" and the lights die opening track June can only be described as breath-taking.

As the band run through the next few songs I am just in a state of awe. Florence is about as far removed from today's plastic, over produced, over made up pop stars as you can get. There is something other worldly about her.

Even her voice when speaking between songs catches you off guard. It is childlike, at first a little disarming. She says she rarely speaks offstage and isn't comfortable speaking to large crowds but manages to talk more tonight between songs than most performers I have ever seen.

She wants people to join together and gets the crowd to hug each other, hold hands, dance like no one is watching. She also talks about sending out positive vibes to a world that is getting increasingly dark and making change by changing yourself first. It's all a very 60's hippy vibe but you know what? She has a point. It doesn't seem forced or fake.

Florence is totally believable but where it all hits home is in the delivery of these songs.

There is a purity and even an innocence that comes across in the performance. What makes it special though is this purity comes from places of darkness and despair. She talks about growing up and living in South London and how it isn't a beautiful place, her experiences drinking at a young age. She shines a light on the negatives in life and love and without the dark this light that everyone here experiences tonight wouldn't be as bright.

When she tells the crowd, "hope is an action" it is a call to arms

Rarely do you see a singer so mesmerising that even individual lines in songs stand out. Every lyric is delivered with the passion it was written with. The hits are all here tonight in a 17 song set that is perfectly paced. As she moves and shimmies to the music that voice soars, dips and cuts like a knife with pitch perfect precision.

At one point Florence runs out into the main standing crowd and does something I have never seen before. She doesn't just stand on a barrier above people heads she walks straight into the middle of the floor directly surrounded by thousands of people becoming one of the crowd facing the stage, singing and dancing with them. When she starts jumping up and down the people around her do the same. It gave me goosebumps. So simple but so powerful.

I can't speak for anyone else but tonight for me this show was an experience I will never forget. It is one you should experience as well.



Photos courtesy of Steve McCabe from Crave
Thanks also to Leah Victoria

 

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