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Florence + the machine energize SPAC crowd on cool night (with photo gallery)

Monday, September 17, 2012
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Florence and the Machine performing at SPAC in Saratoga Springs on Sunday, September 16, 2012.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson
Florence and the Machine performing at SPAC in Saratoga Springs on Sunday, September 16, 2012.

— It seemed only appropriate that Florence + the Machine played at Saratoga Performing Arts Center in the fall, as opposed to the middle of the summer.

The chilly fall air Sunday night perfectly fit the moody textures created by vocalist Florence Welch, pianist Isabella “Machine” Summers and their huge band throughout their 90-minute set, which touched upon both of the band’s albums. Welch, dressed in a flowing red and black dress, even looked the part for the fall atmosphere, flitting back and forth across the stage (and during one song, running out into the nearly full amphitheater).

The crowd excitedly ate up Welch’s every whisper, hiccup and flailing movement, standing the entire time and singing along for most of the evening.

While moody and atmospheric, Welch and company still kicked up some rock ’n’ roll grit as well. The ancillary band members began slowly filing out onstage beginning at 8:45, manning the drums, bass, two pianos, three backing vocal mics and a giant harp smack dab in the middle of the stage.

Welch made her dramatic entrance silhouetted behind the group’s elaborate stage setup, and with that the group launched into the soul-stomper “Only If For a Night,” with stuttering rhythms on two drum sets barely containing the song’s swirling dynamics.

“Drumming Song” and “Cosmic Love” kept things high energy to start, as Welch quickly hit her vocal stride. Since she so often began songs on her own — and since her speaking voice is quite similar to her singing voice — it was often hard to tell if Welch was engaging in stage banter or barreling into the next song. She did get the crowd up — literally — before “Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up),” asking audience members to turn to the person next to them and hoist them up on their shoulders. Many obliged, pushing the song to an energetic finish.

Highlights included the throbbing “Spectrum,” complete with seizure-inducing light shows for the song’s dramatic finish, and an interesting acoustic take on “Heartlines,” which really allowed Welch’s vocals to shine.

The meandering “Leave My Body” fared less well, but the band quickly stepped up the energy to close out the main set, ending with the one-two punch of “Shake it Out” and the epic “No Light, No Light."

Florence + the Machine’s fellow Englishmen, The Maccabees, opened the show at 7:30 with a swirling set of atmospheric yet danceable indie rock.

The best part of the group’s performance was the rhythm section — bassist Rupert Jarvis and drummer Sam Doyle created dynamic tension on the late-song rhythm change on set opener “Child,” created a near-impenetrable wall on later number “Love You Better,” and grooved plenty on the band’s best offering, “Wall of Arms.”

With many songs featuring three guitars and keyboards, there was no shortage of ethereal sounds and textures to the music.

Orlando Weeks also made for a dynamic frontman, with or without a guitar, with his Thom Yorke-esque vocals shining particularly on “No Kind Words” and the yearning “Feel to Follow.”

 
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