Florence’s Machine Rolls Onto Campus

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By Nick Batley on 4.3.2024

Florence’s Machine Rolls Onto Campus

The two undisputed risen stars of 2009 were Lady GaGa and Florence and the Machine, and despite both being art-schooled and both being utter freaks of the highest order, this is where their similarities end. Whilst GaGa primarily indulges in glamorous techno-pop, Florence and the Machine, primarily composed of the statuesque, fire-haired waif that is Ms Welch, has been beamed in from another slightly gothic, slightly hippy planet, and she is headlining this year’s Summer Ball! Beginning her singing career intoxicated and in a club toilet, her dreamy, escapist music and passionate wail of a voice has sent her to superstardom in the space of a year, crowned by a blistering duet at the BRIT Awards with last year’s headliner and master of pratfalls, Dizzee Rascal, rendering the entire ceremony infinitely better, by virtue of nothing else good happening.

Coming from an overwhelmingly middle-class and bohemian family in South London, Florence was not a conventional child. Diagnosed with dyslexia and dyspraxia early on, she never took an academic interest (though achieved decent grades), preferring to get heavily drunk and listen to grunge and punk music. She possessed an acute sense of morbidity, and as a teenager often collected headlines of natural disasters and freak accidents, particularly drowning. Her privileged upbringing had not been the smoothest of rides either; her parents divorced when she was 14, her grandfather (a journalist who covered the Nuremberg Trials) suffered a stroke that rendered him mute for the two years prior to his death, and her manic-depressive grandmother committed suicide in Florence’s early teens. This melodrama that has followed her around most of her life is evident in her music, all crashing drums, harps and strings, and a voice that suggests that she’s either breaking down in the recording studio or having the most fantastic sex ever (seriously, it’s hard to tell occasionally).

It is not as if she is limited in her musical scope either. Her first single was the White Stripes-esque riot, ‘Kiss With A Fist’, a song that she has had to categorically deny is endorsing domestic violence, and during which she climbed to the top of the scaffolding beside her stage when performing at Reading Festival on her birthday. Next came the soaring, inspiring and yet oddly melancholy harp-led, ‘Dog Days Are Over’, officially crowned (by me) the most beautiful song of the last five years. Her teenage, grungey side comes out with the brooding pageant to mutilation, ‘Girl With One Eye’, before breaking into the hypnotic, gothic and outright passionate ‘Drumming Song’

Live (I’m citing YouTube now, for I haven’t been), she is a riot of uncontrolled dancing, sprawling lights and birdcages. Effortlessly switching between the shy, giggly recluse that is still evident in interviews, and the indomitable, commanding stage queen, there is something enchanting about her. She sings and dances as though no-one is watching, as though she’s a teenager in that morbid bedroom of hers.

Anyone who attends the Ball, also starring a DJ set from Pendulum, will be in shock and awe. This sort of music has not seen the light of day since Kate Bush, and when delivered by an energetic hippy who seems happy just to have been let out of the house, it turns into something special.

Tickets are £47 from Extras.



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