Live Review: Florence & The Machine, Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders

21 November 2015 | 12:19 pm | Jake Sun

"With performances like these, it's no wonder Florence & The Machine have become festival headliners the world over."

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It doesn't take long for a thick layer of punters and picnic blankets to be spread across the Riverstage's hillside tonight. Though they are already making ripples, a national support slot of this magnitude is just the right kind of wider exposure for Sydney's Jack Ladder & The Dreamlanders. They've got the goods to win over this (semi-)unsuspecting crowd and on this occasion they make the most of it — both their sound and stage presence are solid. Their sombre, muted palettes are quite the contrast to the night's headliner but somehow it really works.

From the moment Florence & The Machine take to the stage and unleash their grand opener, What The Water Gave Me, it's all fire and flair. Florence Welch burns with an infectious intensity as she frantically dances and dashes around the stage, somehow still managing to deliver each vocal line to maximum effect. As she sings, "Did I drink too much? Am I losing touch?" on Ship Tp Wreck, the pain is plain to see. The songs are commonly anchored by deep anguish and inner conflict. However, there is always a grand sense of cathartic celebration that lifts them out of the water, and this couldn't be more true in the case of the live setting — the songs are really heightened and given a grander sense of majesty through this communal celebration.

Those on the dance floor are encouraged to raise each other up on shoulders at the start of Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up), and before you know it Welch is at the top of the hill singing her way through the crowd. It's easy to get lost in Welch's charisma but she is certainly not on her own — Isabella 'Machine' Summers and the rest of the 11-piece band (including five backing vocalists) are all in fine form as they provide the essential muse that is the musical driving force behind their frontwoman's performative movements. The intensity keeps on coming with Third Eye, Delilah, and You've Got The Love. An opening of the heart to the world instead of just one is noted as the inspiration behind How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful and hugs begin to spread around the Riverstage like wildfire.

A breather is finally given when a stripped-down version of Cosmic Love momentarily reduces things to a calm simmer, but the drama is not over; What Kind Of Man, Spectrum, and Dog Days Are Over bring the main body of the set to a whopping close. Mother opens the encore with strength, but they've saved the best for last — deep red lights and musical ambience is laid on thick as Drumming Song creeps in, building a wondrous atmospheric tension before exploding in all its characteristic glory and closing the night on the highest note possible. With performances like these, it's no wonder Florence & The Machine have become festival headliners the world over in the short span of just three albums.

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