Florence and The Machine @ Genting Arena, 16th November 2018.

Over the past decade, Florence Welch has alongside her ensemble backing band established herself as an internationally renowned artist, hitting her peak in the UK with a highly acclaimed headline set at the prestigious Glastonbury Festival in 2015. Since then, things have been a little more low-key until this year, which saw the release of fourth album ‘High As Hope’ and an arena tour to pick up where she left off.

With an extravagant wood-effect stage featuring steps between the platforms, the setting is almost as theatrical as the music itself.  The 8-piece band take their positions, Florence emerges from the back to a deafening roar, gliding barefoot down to centre-stage for the piano-led ‘June’ before twirling across the front with Kate Bush-like expressive dance moves. Recent single ‘Hunger’ comes next as she runs down the steps to the front barrier, jumping with seemingly limitless energy and getting closer to the crowd than you’d usually expect in such a big venue.

As well as the newer songs, Florence dips into her back catalogue regularly, taking a relative breather on ‘Between Two Lungs’ before encouraging people to “stand up and dance” ahead of ‘Only If For A Night’. Stretching her arms out to mock-conduct the orchestral intro to ‘Queen Of Peace’ and later taking an impressive running jump from the back of the stage, it’s hard to take your eyes off Welch’s animated movement, but her powerful vocal performance is the focal point and she’s on outstanding form tonight. “I’m actually very shy”, she insists, giggling at a heckler and observing “there’s a very good energy in here, it’s very free and very feminine and I like it a lot”. Asking everyone to hold hands and “embrace hope”, there’s a really positive atmosphere throughout the arena for the anthemic ‘South London Forever’ and Patti Smith-inspired ‘Patricia’ as Florence tiptoes theatrically across the front of the stage.

If the new album is a little short on the pop bangers we’ve come to expect from Florence + The Machine, the live set fills in those gaps with exuberant versions of ‘Dog Days Are Over’ and ‘Ship To Wreck’ as the band really up their levels and Florence tells everyone to put their phones away and “live the experience”. After an hour of high-intensity performance, ballad ‘The End Of Love’ is a natural dip that just goes to show the band’s versatility, before the set’s energetic climax, with Florence sprinting down the side of the arena and right into the middle of the crowd to dance with her fans to ‘Delilah’ before finishing by singing ‘What Kind Of Man’ on the front barrier to a mass of smiling faces.

As an encore, the Tori Amos-esque ‘Big God’ sees glittery tape falling from the roof of the arena, continuing into the big singalong finale of ‘Shake It Out’. It’s a stunning performance that feels a lot more intimate than an arena show normally would be, and cements Florence’s right to claim her crown as the queen of quirky pop.

Support act Wet have been personally invited on tour by Welch and the band, and the New York electro-pop trio provide an atmospheric performance, performing in near darkness, illuminated only by lights shone onto the covered-up equipment belonging to the headliners and a projected spotlight that singer Kelly moves in and out of. The likes of the melodic ‘There’s A Reason’ and set-closer ‘Softens’ are highlights, but it’s always difficult for an experimental supporting outfit to win over an arena crowd and they’re largely met with indifference.

Still, it’s a good experience for them and they do their best with the opportunity, so hopefully in a different setting shows like this will stand them in good stead for their own development.

Reviewer: Ian Paget

Photographer: Katja Ogrin

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