Florence becomes Flo Bot at the State
Florence Welch has one of pop's most tremendous voices -- opulent, elastic and stratospheric. But as she demonstrated last Friday at Florence + the Machine's sold-out State Theatre concert, she has the most affected, mannered and frosty stage presence of any big-time female pop star.
Florence, 25, came across as part barefoot medieval babe and part robot and totally a one-woman pop-opera. It's not surprising that a previous incarnation of this band was known as Florence Robot/Isa Machine. Flo Bot seemed to be her principal persona at the State. She had faraway eyes, formal movements and a stunning stiffness. She was oblivious to her band. She seemed lost in her own world, not the friendly, free-wheeling Stevie Nicks on steroids that she had been last June in her Twin Cities debut at the Minnesota Zoo.
Many fans seemed willing to go with Welch on Friday into her world of baroque pop, dripping with drama as she wailed about sinking, drowning and delving into the darkness. The appeal is obvious: She's Celine Dion for the "Twilight" set -- complete with the chest-pounding, histrionic hand gestures and vocal gymnastics.
While Welch has a remarkable voice, she relied on two backup singers to sustain the high notes and technology to bolster her otherworldly echoes. When she dialed down the drama of her soft-loud-soft songs, the beauty of singing could be truly appreciated. "Leave My Body" and "Lover to Lover" simmered in their soulfulness. Flo Bot loosened up for the disco-y "You Got the Love," the punkish "Shake It Out" with its post-primal scream and the mega-hit "Dog Days Are Over," during which she taught the crowd how to pogo.
During the encore, Florence truly separated the art from the artifice. "Never Let Me Go" started with just piano and voice, displaying the richness and conviction she's capable of when she opts to be Florence the nightingale instead of Hurricane Florence. But she closed the 80-minute set with the approach she emphasized all night: Big kick drum, big scream, big roaring sound, with her voice howling like a wolf before the final chorus.
- Jon Bream
Poliça looks great, sounds off on 'Fallon'
Somebody give the "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" camera crew a gold star. They did a great job on April 25 capturing the dynamic interplay between Poliça drummers Drew Christopherson and Ben Ivascu, which is at the center of the song that the Minneapolis quartet surprisingly chose to perform for its TV debut, "Leading to Death."
The show's audio technicians, on the other hand, might need a little talking to. Singer Channy Leaneagh's electronicified vocals sounded weirdly muddy and flimsy in what was presumably quite a hi-fi audio mix (not at all a problem at, say, the lo-fi Turf Club or 7th Street Entry).
Still, the band properly seized the moment, which came to them last-minute after Tom Waits had to cancel. Host Jimmy Fallon somewhat wise-acrely emphasized the "ç" in the band's name during his introduction. And the band somewhat boldly made "Leading to Death" its wise song selection -- not one of the tracks from its album touted as a single, but one that has been a clear highlight in its live sets this spring. Maybe the smartest move of them all, though, was by Ivascu, who did not miss a chance to mouth the words "Hi Mom!" into the cameras after the commercial break when Fallon came back to bid adieu.
- Chris Riemenschneider