I don’t think anyone was expecting this.
On 14 April 2014 Melbourne soul diva Florelie Escaño tore up the Toff in Town. But before that happened, she shot a music video. And we all were in it.
It was surreal to start a gig by playing the headline song four times in a row. With a backing track. And with several roaming video cameras – mostly focussing on Florelie and her band, but occasionally also turning on the audience. No doubt her cameramen got some good footage, and it was also effective at hyping up the audience for a killer live show.
And killer it was. Backed by a tight (and well-dressed) six-piece soul band, Florelie smashed out the hits one after another. There were no dead spots in her set of originals (with the occasional Aretha Franklin cover). Florelie is seasoned performer and it was obvious she pulled no stops on this occasion. Delivering a full hour of music, her performance ranged from impassioned to defiant to celebratory.
As if her dominant presence and six-piece band weren’t enough, Florelie raised the stakes – twice – by inviting on stage choreographed dancers and backing singers. They were clearly well-rehearsed and coordinated. The movement and energy on stage was infectious and it was rare to see an audience member not dancing, grooving, or otherwise moving to the music.
Not only did Florelie deliver a top-shelf performance, but so did her band. Made up of drums, guitar, bass, keyboard, and a horn section (trumpet and saxophone), Florelie’s band dished out the groove in spades. Impressively on point, on cue and in the pocket, they matched Florelie’s high-energy performance beat for beat. The instrumental solos clearly exposed them as master musicians. What wasn’t so clear was whether they were lucky to play with Florelie or if Florelie was lucky to play with them – throughout the set they seemed to keep outdoing themselves and each other.
And the stage looked fantastic. Florelie wore a funky deep-purple one-piece, and her band were dressed in suits. A long rope-light snaked its way across the stage. The male backing dancers were in white shirts with black ties and the female dancers and singers wore formal black. It was all very classy. Presented in the Toff’s elegant environment, the result was much more than a Wednesday night gig. It was a show in which the performers demonstrated as much respect for each other as they did for the audience.
When Florelie repeated the refrain “I won’t let ’em take my soul” from her song Blacklash Brew, everyone in the audience knew exactly how she felt. Florelie is all about delivering real grooving authentic soul music. It felt real and true. Any fans of Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Etta James and Chaka Khan know what to expect, and Florelie set it loose. This is the kind of music that demands movement and energy. It demands dance. Beard-strokers can stay home.
Stay tuned for her next performance. In the mean time, check her out at http://flo.fm
Photos by Obsessive Music