Famed for a breathtaking and powerful live show, the unstoppable Florence Welch and her band did not disappoint as 20,000 fans were swept away on a magical journey at Mt Duneed this January. Gifted with the most perfect evening, punters quickly covered the grassy surrounds of the winery with rugs, picnics and chairs as they set themselves up for what would be an incredible affair.
Kicking off the festivities, late addition Jack River took to the stage as the sun was at its peak and the punters were ready to move their feet. Despite only being added to the lineup late last year due to international scheduling conflicts for breakout US teen sensation Billie Eilish, the welcomed change cemented Jack River as a stand out who arguably stole the show for the day.
Off the back of a sold-out national tour and triple j feature album, this local singer-songwriter released one of 2018’s most inspiring pop records, Sugar Mountain, debuting at number 11 on the ARIA chart.
With sparkles, positivity and sweet sounds pulsating through the winery surrounds, Jack River (aka Holly Rankin) brought Sugar Mountain to life with hit singles, ‘Fool’s Gold’, ‘Fault Line’, ‘Ballroom’, ‘Confess’ and ‘Limo Song’ which was met with joyous singalongs from the steadily growing crowd. Keeping the pace of the set moving, Jack River took the crowd back to her humble beginnings with ‘Palo Alto’, and left the crowd on a high with her own rendition of Tal Bachman’s ‘She’s So High’. With tracks that all tell a tale of the dream of an alternate youth, this electrifying performance from Jack River proved just why she is one of Australia’s most exciting young artists.
New Zealand singer-songwriter Marlon Williams followed with his effortlessly distinctive voice that captivated listeners in the winery surrounds. For the past few years Williams has been busy captivating crowds across America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand, impressing the world with his uncanny ability to turn his classically trained voice into an effortless, worldly, seductive instrument of storytelling and the a day on the green crowd was no exception.
Walking out onto the stage, I was taken back by his pirate-eske, quirky look, but with a quick nod to his band mates, Marlon turned on the charm and launched into “What’s Chasing You,” the second single from his sophomore album, ‘Make Way for Love’, which is definitely one of the best breakup albums in a long while. With a voice that gets compared to everyone from Elvis to Roy Orbison and Johnny Cash, he walked us through a well thought-out performance that was brewed together with more songs off his new album including ‘Party Boy’, as well as favourites such as ‘Dark Child’ from his self-titled debut.
I have to admit I didn’t know many of his tracks, but between punching out quirky lines and smiles and performing a set has the ability to pull the chattering audience into a soft focus with his smooth and powerful voice, it became clear that Williams is one of the most interesting and impressive young musicians I’ve seen in a while.
It’s an understatement to say Florence set fire to the stage at a day on the green. Opening with ‘Hunger’, Florence Welch’s energy was unlike that of any other, spinning confidently and dramatically across the stage, while simultaneously allowing her vulnerability to shine through.
With the crowd on their feet, Florence launched into the harp-heavy track ‘Only If for a Night’ from 2011’s Ceremonials, the second studio album from the band, followed by ‘Queen of Peace’, the brooding track from their third studio album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (2015).
It’s her stage presence however that is most captivating. Addressing the audience between songs, Florence spoke with a humble but fragile warmth, opening up about her anxieties and hard times, expressing the need for all the beating hearts in the audience not to give up hope: “This year make the changes you need to make. A revolution in consciousness starts in individuals.”
With her innocent speaking voice, Florence quickly launches into the overwhelmingly beautiful ‘South London Forever’, ‘Big God’ and the Patti Smith inspired ‘Patricia’, all taken from her most recent album High As Hope. Here, she sings like a heavenly god has taken over and frankly, it’s just incredible.
Of course it wouldn’t be a Florence live show without crowd favourite ‘Dog Days Are Over’ and ‘Shake It Out’ (unfortunately no sign of ‘You’ve Got The Love’), where the long-time fans were able to indulge in these tracks being delivered with the same level of high vigour as they first were when they were released.
It was ‘100 Years’ however that created an ethereal and inclusive experience, as Florence requested all phones to be put away, and amazingly, when Florence speaks, you listen. As far as I could see from the people around me, there was not a phone in sight and music lovers were dancing to their hearts content. This was live music in its most purest form – and we have Florence to thank for that.
It’s clear through her live show that Florence is an artist who appears more certain than ever of herself – and it’s a certainty that took the breath away from every single attendee at a day on the green this January.
Feature photo courtesy of Chelsea Sienna King.