Florence and the Machine swap the attic for the arena
Florence Welch's dramatic new tour confirms her superstar status (but can she really sing?)
What you need to know
Florence and the Machine are a British pop group led by singer-songwriter Florence Welch, whose voice is often compared to that of Kate Bush. The band's music combines elements of baroque pop, art rock and soul.
Their first album, Lungs, released in 2009, reached number one in the charts and was one of the bestselling albums of 2009 and 2010. At the 53rd Grammy Awards (2011), Florence and the Machine were nominated for best new artist.
Their second album, Ceremonials, released in October 2011, debuted in Britain at number one. The band are currently on tour in Britain, with gigs this week in Manchester and Newcastle. Next month, Florence plays the Royal Albert Hall, London.
What the critics like
Florence's underdog days are over, says Ed Power in The Daily Telegraph. Her new tour features a gleaming art-deco backdrop, enough musicians and crew to field a football team and, of course, Florence, with her Pre-Raphaelite red hair, "rafter raising voice" and billowing cape created for her by Lady Gaga stylist Alex Noble. But "for all the superficial pomp", the show feels almost stripped down and Florence creates "the impression that she was crooning to each and every person in the room individually".
The live show is a magnificent exaggeration of the album, says Kristin Lynn on STV. With shooting stars on LED screens, this "truly dramatic show" pivots on a prominent harp to cultivate Florence's distinctive sound while the driving percussion "keep the tribal heart of the band pulsating".
Windy, undulating songs and tribal operatic pop have marked Florence Welch's giddy ascent to pop's major international leagues, says Kitty Empire in The Guardian. Welch unleashes some of her best elastic and soulful vocals playing off "the neo-spiritual hoot" of an accompanying choir. She may once have seemed "the quintessential bohemian eccentric, but she is thriving in a female-dominated mainstream".
What they don't like
Florence has the sort of voice that can conquer all, says Will Dean in The Independent. But if her show is let down, it's by the fact that, "despite her stave-straddling vocal range, it's sometimes hard to detect too much emotional range in Welch's voice as it rockets towards the ceiling".
Florence has gone from the "batty relative the pop world kept in its attic" to bona fide superstar status, says Will Hodgkinson in The Times. But after a few songs it becomes apparent that she can't really sing. She "belts out words rather than lands on notes" and "heads towards hysteria rather than scales". It suits her escapist style though, and whether she hit the notes or not, "she holds the room captive simply by being herself".