Monday, November 30

Florence and Friends @The Tabernacle 27/11/09

. Monday, November 30

For a gig dubbed ‘Florence and Friends it was a strange decision to print the stage times on the door of Notting Hill’s Tabernacle including the names of the mystery guests and their sound checking times. So what started as an exciting round of ‘Guess the mystery guests’ merely became ‘Read the names off a sheet’. The premature nature of the announcement was not without joy however as alongside the expected suspects (Patrick Wolf, Jack Penate) was ‘Jarvis and Steve’. Alongside Britney and Kylie Jarvis Cocker is someone who doesn’t really require a surname however knowing that he was due to perform had the audience buzzing.

It’s easy to forget but a year ago nobody really knew who Florence and The Machine were yet with each month 2009 grows they tick off another milestone of success. To truly understand the intensity and over blown power of debut album ‘Lungs’ though you really have to see the band perform live and enter the world of extravagant exhibitionism. No stranger to showing off is Mr Patrick Wolf who is brought into tonight’s foray to perform ‘Dog Days’ and ‘Cosmic Love’. Wolf himself is similar to Florence in that he has a magnetic charisma and an ability to make you forget all others exist. It’s strange then that in the presence of his red-haired friend that he melts away to almost quiet anonymity. It doesn’t help that there is an almost physical barrier in the shape of his piano in the way but Wolf struggles to exert his powerful stage presence on his two duets.

Similarly Jack Penate is a confident and exciting live act but tonight next to Florence he may as well be in the audience. It’s at this point of the gig you begin to think the title should have been ‘The Machine and Friends’. Florence’s overriding voice and personality seem impeachable and it is because of this talent and power that she is so successful but to ask people to come onstage and try and match that unique ability is a task which eludes many of those on stage this evening.

It’s not surprising then that Jarvis Cocker is the man who comes closest to scaling the heights and grabbing some of the spotlight back. First, the pair duet on the creepy narrative of ‘Girl With One Eye’ which, like many Cocker songs, tells a story through verse and melody. His geography teacher chic look now uniform, Jarvis brings a creepy uncle vibe to the song and gives it a fresh outlook. The evenings defining moment however is when the pair run through the Pulp classic ‘Underwear’. The unexpected sexual tension between the pair was hinted at during their first song but the erotically charged Pulp lyrics bring the pair closer together thus creating a moment that falls somewhere between expectant and triumphant.

Ultimately however Florence is a solo star- she simply can’t share a stage without annihilating her partner. As mentioned this is the reason people love her but it’s the songs sung sans guests tonight that impress the most. Acoustic blasts of ‘Drumming Song’ and ‘Rabbit Heart’ showcase the now famous vocals and overriding feeling that Florence will be around, with or without friends, for a very long time.



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