Review: Florence + The Machine @ The Genting Arena, Birmingham

Barefoot and pirouetting her way across the stage in a sequence of twists and turns, Florence Welch of Florence + The Machine gave it her all in Birmingham's Genting Arena last Saturday.

It was in a standing arena, crammed full of people of all ages, a couple of rows from the barrier that I first witnessed Florence and her 11 (?) piece band The Machine. Having bought my friend Ella their first album Lungs for her 9th birthday it was a big day for us as 16 year olds. Before Florence I didn't really understand that albums that weren't titled Pop Party 1,2,3,4... existed, let alone that music could actually be good and have a new depth to it. It was a new experience for me as I regularly launched into my own rendition of Kiss With A Fist in the shower at the age of 10.

It was about 3 songs into the night whilst Shake it Out filled my ears when I realised a Florence + The Machine concert isn't just a concert. The intesity of it makes you feel as if you are undergoing some sort of spiritual experience or as Ella put it: "a religious journey". I don't know how to describe it without sounding out of my mind but I walked out of The Genting Arena that night with all worries and depressing thoughts dismissed from my mind. All I could seem to focus on was how blessed I am to have had the chance to view such a spectacle and how much I loved the world.

The set up consisting of numerous instruments, one of these being a beautiful harp, and a large backdrop that glittered with the light provided aniticipation before a single foot had stepped onto the stage. The show was opened by The Staves who were, as an audience member described, "Very Florence-y". The three sisters had extremely strong and unique voices. So much so that they could easily have lulled me into a sense of calm and sent me drifting off to sleep. Their voices needed no backing instruments and although often accompanied they occasionally sang without it.

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Florence + The Machine's 16 song set was met with one of the most energetic crowds I've been engulfed in to date. We had roars of approval, screams of I love you and the regular deep masculine shout that seems to occur from somewhere in the middle at every concert I've experienced, the voice of whom usually belonging to a bald middle aged man. It's always the way. After the band left the stage following Dog Days Are Over the crowd took it upon themselves to create the closest I've experienced to an earthquake in my life. I was surrounded by stomping feet, clapping hands and the rythmic chanting of FLO-RENCE FLO-RENCE over and over and over. She graced us with a two piece encore of What Kind of Man and Drumming Song which was met with more noise than the rest of the songs combined. That says an awful lot.

Although the band is clearly Florence + The Machine, both complementing each other greatly, it was Florence who well and truly stole the show that night. She radiated with energy and enthusiasm. More than once she lept down from the stage and lent over the barrier into the crowd, everyone in the surrounding area surging forward in the hope they could brush their hand against hers. The way she looked out into the crowd with such intense eye contact was the most enchanting thing to watch. A small shake of her tamborine sent everybody into a frenzy of love. Never before have I been in a room so full of love.

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Here in Britain, we always want what we can't have. In the winter it's deemed normal for everyone to crave the feeling of the summer sun on their backs- and boy do they let everyone know about it. However when our lives are finally graced with a bit of sun there is nothing people want more than a warm duvet and some scented candles.

Personally, although I probably say this everytime a new season comes along, I love Autumn. I finally have an excuse to wear welly boots regularly and of course I can start counting down to Christmas (98 days!!). It's such a common stereotype but who doesn't love it when it's so cold outside and you can go home and cocoon yourself in a duvet safehaven and watch films with plots that consist of overly happy Americans or Winona Ryder. I even took it as far as buying a darker "berry" coloured lipstick yesterday which is a bit of a new one for me. Lets hope it looks reasonable because I'm not sure if I can rock the "I've eaten too many blackberries" look despite having done so too many times.

As much as I love going outside to be greeted with shades of orange and brown or going inside to be greeted by my duvet; Halloween is the highlight of my Autumn. Oh how I love going out onto the streets faced with collections of girls supposedly "dressed" as cats when really they've forgotten to get dressed at all. I promise myself on a yearly basis that I will go out for Halloween and have an inventive costume like Edward Scissorhands or something along those lines (who knows why) but I tend to end up watching too many Tim Burton films next to the safety of my radiator. I will never not love carving the pumpkins though, even if I don't go out into the cold to look at them. The smell that comes alongside carving a pumpkin is so nostalgic and year after year I prepare to carve mine with such high expectations but time and time again it'll end up looking like the face of a squashed monkey. As much as I love Halloween I also love when it's over because that means it's plain sailing to Christmas!!!!!! I wish mince pies weren't a seasonal thing because I could seriously devour one right now.

As the days get shorter the darkness rolls in earlier and it's such a great feeling coming home in the evening and having a helping of Mums neverending casserole supply before snuggling up with a film. However, when morning arrives (far too quickly) there is no where I'd rather be than my bed. Why would anyone in there right mind pick the cold and tired walk downstairs over the orginial safety blanket of warmth and comfort. If I had any power whatsoever I would totally put forward the idea that students shouldn't have to get up for college until it's light outside. Oh- and that the temperature should be above 12 degrees before we leave our house. Knowing North Devon a temperature that high wont be a regular occurence. If that's not appropriate then perhaps the College could provide us all with a £335 Burberry Scarf for a bit of warmth. We can only dream.

Now I'll have to love you and leaf you (sorry that's really not funny) as I go and invest in something waterproof. Preferably an umbrella.

Life Moves Pretty Fast

I've come to the inevitable conclusion that life moves pretty fast. You may be thinking that this epiphany occurred after watching Ferris Bueller endlessly, and yes that probably is a contribution, but I am really starting to wonder where the last sixteen years have gone. The idea that I will be this age forever is obviously implausible but it doesn't take me long to forget that I will eventually turn 40. How horrific.

Sometimes the key attribute here is denial. I spent my whole summer denying the fact it would eventually end, yet here I am on my third day of college. Where is summer you may ask? Over.
I was determined that I wouldn't have to face college if I just didn't think about it. I had fun and pushed any thoughts involving the word "icebreaker" to the back of my mind. This was successful until the night before my first day when my world came crashing down as I began to forage round my brain for as many quirky facts to help me out when having to say "My name is Katie and I like....". All I learnt from that experience is that I'm not a very interesting person. That, and the fact that time will always go on. You will always reach new stages in your life no matter how much you don't want to.

Since starting Nursery, school and adults alike constantly bombard you with the question "what do you want to be when you grow up?". Over the years I've changed from a Zoo Keeper to a Spaceman to eventually a Journalist. I've gone through so many phases and named pretty much every job under the sun. It never actually settled in my head until recently that one day I will actually have to grow up. Questions about growing up and our future careers are passed around so often and it's answers are always so extravagant. It takes some time before you learn that being a "grown up" isn't actually a magical land where you can have any pet you want and not bide by the rules. The truth to this land of "grown ups" is that you have to pay for everything yourself and your mum will stop doing your washing and ironing for you. I am happy to admit I am more worried about the second of those problems because the word iron is not in my vocabulary.

I often spent far to much of my year as a 13 year old turning down opportunities. For a while I was that one in my group of friends who never went anywhere without making a fuss. I'm not the most outdoor adventurer you'll ever meet but I no longer turn down an invitation to meet up with friends if possible. If starting college has taught me one thing it's that life isn't always like school. The time you get to spend with your friends wont last forever and everyone eventually will grow up and go there separate ways. So now, any time I do have with my friends will be enjoyed to the fullest and I will treasure each second. Hopefully growing up will bring new friends and new experiences but for now I want to make sure I have old friends and old experiences to look back on when I'm having a stroll on the moon as a successful spacewoman.

Now this is the part where I promise to live life to the fullest and go on an internet free spree before riding an elephant and letting parrots lounge on my head in some exotic country. Unfortunately those scenarios are unlikely but recently I have been trying not to take life (and everything in it) for granted. For me, that's a step in the right direction.