Florence + The Machine
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- Academy, Pemberton »
Just under three months ago MGMT played Manchester’s small Night & Day Café. The rise to tonight’s venue, the far-bigger Academy 2, can be related to the appeal of the New York band’s breakthrough single, ‘Time To Pretend’. Both shows sell out, and with festival season approaching their star is most certainly in ascendance. The question remains however, besides that song, what exactly do MGMT have to offer?
Before the main attraction, though, we’re treated to the effervescent and charming Florence & The Machine. Having bubbled away on the edges of the radar the stars seem to be aligning for Florence at the moment, and a high-profile support slot on this tour is only going to send her higher and higher. A short and sweet set kicks off with a cover of Cold War Kids’_ ‘Hospital Beds’; while it’s strange to start a show with a cover, the song serves as the first introduction to Florence’s breathtaking voice. It’s one that pierces, soars and flies; it is the highlight of tonight’s show, taking numbers like _‘Birdsong’ and ‘Girl With 1 Eye’ to a different stratosphere. But despite boasting a voice so strong melody does not seem to be pivotal to Florence’s songs, too many times where slight restraint would be more beneficial she opts to really belt it out. One assumes that maturity and a good album producer will curb this urge and see Florence mature into the talent she clearly could be. Set highlight is her new single_ ‘Kiss With A Fist’_, that is as punchy as it is sweet. This time next year she could be massive.
MGMT’s Oracular Spectacular (review) may well flirt with the ‘Best Of’ lists at the end of the year, but if there was a ‘Most Eclectic’ list then it would surely be a dead cert for number one. Probably best described as sounding like Scissor Sisters covering The Rolling Stones on LSD (erm, okay then – Ed) the album veers from out-and-out pop to psychedelic meanderings via electronic club smashes. The live show is a similarly hit and miss affair.
The two-piece – Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden – are boosted by three extra members for the show with a second guitarist, bassist and a drummer. The drummer, for no apparent reason, is sat behind an unfeasible large kit; you half expect it to start twisting and flaming a la that of Joey Jordison or Tommy Lee at any moment. Lead singer VanWyngarden is the main focal point of the evening, partly because he is singing all the songs, mainly because he has arrived on stage in a floral dress. Nice.
The show starts on a really impressive roll, kicking off with an instrumental before_ ‘Weekend Wars’_ permeates its way through the skin; its off-kilter dreamy pop stylings see the crowd swaying and seduced. ‘Electric Feel’ follows suit, taking a more glam approach to any Mercury Rev similarities, a second hit single if ever there was one. This opening sequence is completed by album highlight ‘The Youth’, an ethereal and heavenly slice of pop perfection. Having started so well MGMT set the bar very high; sadly nothing else they offer successfully leaps it.
Three-quarters of the set seems self indulgent, bloated and boring. Too many songs wander away from the already loose album recordings, extended jam sections spoiling the likes of ‘Pieces Of What’ and ‘The Handshake’. Attentions begin to drift, and not just because attendees are itching to hear ‘Time To Pretend’. That said, the only time other than during their initial flurry of arrangements that MGMT engage the whole room is during said song. The Hit unleashed, the room predictably begins to empty; ‘Future Reflections’ and a little-known Kinks cover do little to keep feet from stepping towards the door. When an encore is introduced by VanWyngarden saying “_ we are just going to improvise some stuff, see what happens”_, bodies head homewards, patience tested and broken.
In a shorter, festival-geared set you get the impression MGMT could be outstanding; given time and space to roam, though, they simply do not have the charisma or inventiveness to carry off an hour-plus set at this point of their career. On tonight’s display it seems the act are far more filler than they are killer.
Photo: James Parker
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