Saturday, September 15, 2012

Quick Impressions from Florence

Florence and the Machine create music that sounds like Dusty Springfield backed by Peter Gabriel's band. The look they carry is that woman in every Art Deco print from the 1920's: green diaphanous dress swirling around a sylvan free spirit framed by pyramids, mirrors and fountains. None of these images really gel together, exactly, as much as flow in and out of each other like the dreamy superimposing of stage shots they projected on the big screen to either side of the Comcast Center's stage.

Florence Welch is another largely undigested blob. She sings with a piercing, soulful soprano, reaching for the emotional urgency of say Aretha Franklin or Donna Summer but always skating away at the last moment of each note into a playful release. Florence struck me as a forest spirit of some type. A pixie, or a sprite, or an elf. She skips around the stage, twirling in her green dress, flipping her auburn hair, accepting tokens from the front row of the audience like a delighted Tinkerbell before once more flitting away in a whirl of silk and pale out-stretched arms. Her band, particularly the back-up singers, at times had to adjust timing or pitch to follow along their capricious singer.

The audience itself was curious to me. It occurred to me, walking into the Comcast Center, that it's been 20 years since I first began listening to what I thought of as "my music." Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and REM seemed to me to be important, necessary, authentic, and part of some great generational shift just then lapping against the collective unconscious of America. To listen to Nirvana was to take part in something in itself, to be joined to something. That's how it seemed to me in high school at least.

But that was a generation ago. Dodging the hordes of pre-teens, post-teens, young adults, and families I was struck by how inclusive music has become in the terms age groups. While everyone pretty much looked the same, Florence produces music that produces a remarkably similar reaction in a variety of ages: to twirl, hop and skip. When did this happen? I think there is still music that is primarily 'teen' music or 'protest' music, but I don't remember entire families going to a concert and enjoying each other's company in a manner so free of irony or embarrassment.

Everyone owns iphones and everyone raises them up during the quiet moments in the songs to capture the forest spirit before she flits to some other corner of the stage.
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