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Florence + The Machine with The Maccabees: Wantagh, NY, September 15, 2012

Florence + The Machine with The Maccabees: Wantagh, NY, September 15, 2012
Mike Perciaccante By

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Florence + The Machine with The Maccabees
Nikon At Jones Beach Theater
Wantagh, New York
September 15, 2012
On a crisp September evening, two of South London's newest music exports invaded Long Island. The evening's opening act, Britain's The Maccabees, released its first single, "X-Ray" on Promise Records in November, 2005, and soon found itself opening for The Arctic Monkeys. The group's debut CD, Color It In (Geffen), was released in 2007 and gained The Maccabees fans and critical acclaim, along with the subsequent Wall of Arms (Fiction, 2009) and Given to The Wild (Fiction/Cooperative Music, 2012). Florence + The Machine's eclectic blend of pop, rock, soul, funk and classical (bordering on baroque) earned it and lead singer Florence Welch industry buzz during 2007. The band's debut single, "Kiss with a Fist," was released on the Moshi Moshi label in June, 2008. The following year, the group's debut CD, Lungs, was released on Universal Republic. Buoyed by the single "Dog Days Are Over," the album achieved platinum record status. In 2010, Universal Republic reissued Lungs as a two-disc deluxe package featuring a 12-track bonus disc containing live versions and remixes. A second studio album, Ceremonials (Universal Republic) was released in 2011. In 2012, Florence + The Machine released MTV Unplugged (Universal Republic), a CD/DVD collection filmed before a small audience that featured many of the group's best-loved tunes, as well as a cover of Otis Redding's "Try a Little Tenderness" another Johnny Cash/June Carter's "Jackson," with guest vocals from Josh Homme, of Queens Of the Stone Age. Florence + The Machine has also earned a large following, along with fantastic critical reviews in a relatively short period of time.
The Maccabees quickly set the tone for the evening by rocking the blue-tinged stage with a loose and driving set of '80s and '90s-influenced rock 'n' roll. The crowd's reaction to its electrifying performance, as people made their way to their seats, certainly suggested that the band is a force with which to be reckoned. Lead guitarist/vocalist Orlando Weeks, guitarists Hugo White and Felix White, bassist Rupert Jarvis and drummer Sam Doyle, along with touring keyboardist Will Whit, delivered a short set chock full of fantastic vocals and catchy melodies.
This was the second night of the group's tour with Florence + The Machine. Weeks went out of his way to point out that the band was happy to be there and that if the show "goes anything like last night, it'll be okay!" The set's highlights were the exceptional versions of "Child," "Feel To Follow," the U2-influenced "William Powers," the heavy bass-driven "No Kind Words," and "Can You Give It," with its military inspired percussion and minor-keyed guitars. As the crowd filed into the outdoor arena by the bay it was soon apparent that The Maccabees really were something special. Each song was greeted with slightly more applause than the previous one, in particular for the closing "Love You Better," with its swirling drums blasts and repetitive musical theme, and the staccato pop of "Pelican."

Based on the high energy performance, precision lightshow, showmanship and stage presence it was easy to see how and why The Maccabees have become one of England's most popular bands. It shouldn't be too long before it achieves similar status on this side of the Atlantic.

After a short intermission, the stage darkened, The Machine took the stage and Florence Welch appeared in silhouette behind a huge, bright screen. When the lights came up, the redheaded singer's long, dark, flowing long-sleeved dress, with its stylish, orange-yellow splotch design, was revealed. The opening performances of "Only If For A Night" and "What The Water Gave Me" were nothing short of sensational.

Welch has a big voice. She can belt out a song with the best of them, filling large and small arenas alike; the album isn't called Lungs without reason. When she spoke, however, she was very soft-spoken. Some have called it gentle, others quiet and still others have described her speaking voice as having an almost waif-like quality. Quite a dichotomy.

Waif-like or not, Welch was clearly in a playful mood, greeting the crowd with, "Hello Jones Beach...what do you call those seats up there, I don't suppose they're called bleachers. We're happy to be here even if we've been calling it Jonas Beach, like The Jonas Brothers Beach House." She then paused for a second and, with a twinkle in her eye, said, "This is much better, anyway thank you for having us!"

Banter is as much a part of a Florence + The Machine show as the music. When introducing "Rabbit Hole (Raise It Up)," Welch asked, "Jones Beach, what are we going to do with you?" She continued by stating that "This is the part of the show where we demand some human sacrifices. We want you on your feet. Those of you in the back can decide if you want to or not, but if you feel like it put your wife, friend or someone you gave birth to on your shoulders. Now you can just rise from your seats. This one's for you; we have successfully subverted the venue. This one's called 'Raise It Up.'" During the song, the barefoot Welch ran through the crowd—up one aisle and down another, with security hot on her tail—all the while singing a perfect note-for-note rendition of the song.



"Spectrum" was introduced with, "I don't know about you all but I'm guessing a lot of you are from New York City. We English are a lot like New Yorkers—a bit reserved." She smiled and continued, "So now I want you to turn to the person next to you and shake their hand, embrace them, kiss them or whatever you want to do—well not whatever...there that was nice. I saw some kissing. Now that we all know each other and we won't be shy." It was the perfect way to introduce a song whose chorus is:

"Say my name,

And every color illuminates,

We are shining,

And we'll never be afraid again.

Say my name!

As every color illuminates!

We are shining!

And we'll never be afraid again!

Say my name!

As every color illuminates!

We are shining!

And we'll never be afraid again!"


Clearly enamored with the New York City area, Welch stepped center stage to announce that it was ..."only the second night of our U.S. tour. New York is so alive and vibrant. Do you want to sing this with me?" She then led the audience through a call-and-response version of "Heartlines," with its "Yeah, yeah, yeah" verse.

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