Live Review: Florence & The Machine + Jack River + Marlon Williams – The Domain, Sydney (26.01.19)

Florence + The Machine played to nearly thirty thousand people at Sydney’s The Domain this past weekend, and if you’re going to take anything away from this review let it be this: Florence Welch is so much better than all of us, in every facet possible. There’s no two ways about it. It’s as simple as that. When you’re as downright flawless at your job as Florence is, no one will ever come close.

Opening up the night was Marlon Williams. The New Zealand artist played a tight and bluesy set, fronting to a crowd that turned up early and got every last bit of value from their ticket. A notable highlight from the set was the catchy and punchy “Party Boy”. Acting as support across the entirety of the FATM tour, you could tell that Williams was truly grateful for having the opportunity to play on such a large stage, in front of so many people.

Up next was Jack River. On the back of releasing one of 2018’s best album, Sugar Mountain, the artist formerly known as Holly Rankin has had a super busy past twelve months, and playing as part of the Florence show would almost undoubtedly be the peak for a self described ‘Florence fan girl’. Playing the same set she has been touring with over the past few months, Jack River and band were flawless as she ran through fan favourites “Ballroom”, “Limo Song”, “Fault line” and an alternate version to “Palo Alto”. Closing out on the Tal Bachman classic “She’s So High” and her own masterstroke “Fool’s Gold”, Jack River justified Florence’s faith in choosing her to fill the void left when original main support Billie Eilish pulled out.

One of the main things you notice about Florence Welch is the strength and effort she puts into everything she does. Whether it be her vocals, on stage acrobatics, or enthusiasm for talking to the crowd, the notoriously shy Florence (‘I don’t really like calling people; if I could text you all I would’) goes at it in full stride, giving it a red-hot go every time she takes the stage. In the country on the back of her 2018 album, High As Hope, naturally her newer tracks took precedent over some of her earlier, more fan and festival friendly tracks. While not her strongest album, High As Hope still had a boundless number of killer tracks, many of which featured through out the set. Opening up with the one-two of “June” and “Hunger”, the strength and fluency of Florence’s dance moves were an early highlight.

One of the great things about bands like Florence + The Machine is that because they’ve released quality tracks for such an extended period of time, they could play ten different sets and you’re never going to be let down. For instance, this set managed to not include songs like “Lover To Lover”, “No Light, No Light”, “Spectrum” “What The Water Gave Me, “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” or “Drumming Song” and yet, still managed to have a setlist that was filled with wall-to-wall bangers.

One thing I took away from the set was the cross generational appeal Florence’s songs have. The number of young families, mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and grandparents that were having the time of their lives was something that sets Florence’s music apart from just about anyone else. Parents being able to dance with their kids to earlier tracks like “Between Two Lungs” and “Cosmic Love” whilst also getting down to the flawless “Delilah” and “Ship To Wreck” is surely one of the best things you’ll be able to see in a live music setting.

Taking the time to speak about the ever-changing global environment we find ourselves to be in, Florence preluded “Patricia” with a speech about toxic masculinity, and her assertation that everyone in attendance would be a supporter of women. I’m pretty sure she was spot on. The biggest moment of the night came, without a doubt, from sentimental favourite, “Dog Days Are Over”. Ten years since its release, it’s still as beautiful, timely and complete as it ever will be. Asking everyone in the crowd to embrace those around them and spread the love, her ability to get everyone to put their phones away, if only for one song, helped set “Dog Days Are Over” apart from any other song that occurred on the night. It was beautiful, glorious, and felt unbelievably right.

Closing the main set on the impactful “What kind Of Man”, the band returned for a brief encore that included brand new track “Moderation” (it was a smash) and “Big God” before closing on possibly their most complete song, “Shake It Out”. In a time where everything is seemingly falling to shit, those five minutes of “Shake It Out” made you think, that just maybe, we’ll be all right. I have no way in proving that everything will be better and not end up a catastrofuck, but if bands like Florence + The Machine continue to make music and put shows on like they did in The Domain, well maybe we’ll be ok.