As we arrived at the AECC, I was surprised by just how many people had come down early to see the support band; usually in the large cow shed of a venue, a poor support act plays to a handful of people spread across its vast floor. Once LA’s Haim took to the stage, however, it was easy to see why so many had made the effort. The self-proclaimed “three sisters and a mister” put on a great show, chatting happily with the crowd in between songs and recovering well from an early technical mishap that might have thrown lesser bands. Mixing an eclectic variety of genres and influences, their set occasionally felt a little disjointed, but on the whole their infectious blend of 80s synth, hard rock and 90s RnB made for impressive and enjoyable listening.
Kicking off with Only If For A Night, from latest album Ceremonials, Florence and the Machine arrived on stage to an exuberant and welcoming crowd. Stepping out from behind a screen, having previously been silhouetted against it, Florence Welch proved to be an engaging frontwoman, skipping about the stage and contorting her body into the strangest of shapes with wild abandon.
Personally I felt that Ms Welch and her mechanical bandmates took a couple of songs to really get into the swing of things, but judging by the immense reaction from the seething mass of fans around me, I was definitely in the minority. Playing through a set boasting fan favourites from both of the band’s studio albums, including hit You’ve Got The Love, Florence and the Machine led the crowd through sing-a-longs, bouts of dancing and – at one surreal point in the evening – the en masse taking off of shoes to twirl around in the air.
An early set highlight was undoubtedly Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up), found on debut album Lungs, which saw the crowd belt out the rousing chorus of “this is a gift”. And it seemed that life was destined to imitate art as Florence was showered with gifts thrown up on stage from the audience: a stuffed crocodile, a cloak emblazoned with “Queen Florence” and even a tiara all made their way over the crowd barrier.
Halfway through the show, the entire Machine retired from the stage, bar the impressive trio of backing singers and one pianist, for a stripped back version of Leave My Body. The change in tempo and sound provided a nice bit of texture to the evening, allowing a pause from the all-guns-and-harps-blazing approach that filled the rest of the set.
The band returned to the stage for the rest of the night, but after just a few bars of Shake It Out they were halted by Florence, who proceeded to scold audience members at the front of the crowd for breaking out into a fight. (If there ever was a gig at the AECC I didn’t expect to find a fight at, this was it.) After leaping down from the stage to the crowd barrier to talk to the parties concerned, Florence returned to the stage to huge applause from the crowd and burst back into song, before ploughing headstrong into the epic No Light No Light.
After a now-expected temporary disappearance from the stage, Florence and the Machine returned for a three song encore which included two of her biggest hits to date: Spectrum and Dog Days Are Over. During these the crowd went wild, and sang along at the top of their voices and in the best of spirits. Florence and the Machine left the stage triumphant, to a wall of cheers and hollers; surely with a reception like that, a return to Aberdeen won’t be far off. And something tells me they’ll be welcomed back with open arms.