Release Date: Apr 10, 2012
Record label: Universal Republic
Genre(s): Pop, R&B, Pop/Rock, Adult Alternative Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Nothing minor happens in a Florence Welch song. While most of us worry about hangnails or roaming charges, her mind is gripped by images of blindness, despair, suicide and other symptoms of love. On Unplugged, she intensifies the turbulence of her LPs and adds two covers, including a hushed "Try a Little Tenderness" that stands as the best version since Otis Redding's.
Playing an unplugged show is always a dicey prospect. The artists put themselves out there before an unforgiving audience, exposed without the safety net of their electric instrumentation to fall back on. It’s a hit-or-miss affair, turning one’s trademark sound inside-out. For a group like Florence + the Machine, the risks are exceptionally high, but as they display on MTV Unplugged, the rewards they serve through their masterfully reworked songs were worth the gamble.
The second is a pared-back version of the soul classic ‘Try A Little Tenderness’. The most underplayed song of the album, it features just Florence’s chiming vocals and minimal piano accompaniment. In the same way that it’s very hard to ruin one of the greatest songs ever written, it’s also very easy to fuck it up.
To answer your first question: Yes, they still do these. "MTV Unplugged" was once a showcase for pop culture writ impossibly large-- a place where the entire world could gasp at Gene Simmons' bare face or where Kurt Cobain could introduce over five million record buyers to the Vaselines. But in recent years, the show's institutional power has fizzled, and its most recent installments have featured tepid, obligatorily low-lit performances from are-they-really-that-famous? acts like 30 Seconds to Mars and Young the Giant.
2011's Ceremonials, which found Florence + the Machine expanding on their already expansive sound, helped to further propel the ghostly Brit into the spotlight, and on MTV Unplugged, she's come full circle, allowing fans a peek into the bombast while providing the aging, acoustic show with a little defibrillation. It's all well and good, with a solid set list that includes favorites from both records along with a pair of oddball covers, but Florence Welch's stadium-sized persona fights for air within the gothic confines of New York City's historic Angel Orensanz synagogue. You can really feel her holding back on reliable show stoppers like "Dog Days are Over," "Cosmic Love," and "Shake It Out," which is kind of the point for an unplugged session, but Welch's greatest strength is her ability to go from heartbreak to goose bumps without a bead of perspiration, and this well-played, technically sound set suffers a bit for its absence.
This mostly acoustic live set places Florence Welch in the middle of a bombastic conundrum. Her most recent effort, Ceremonials, suffered from being even more overblown than its more amiably large predecessor, Lungs, yet the very idea of an Unplugged album places her in danger of paring it back too far, and leaving Welch's voice exposed to the elements, which are not always kind. That's exactly how this plays out.
Florence reins in her exuberance in for this stripped-back live set. Mike Haydock 2012 When MTV’s Unplugged series started in the late 1980s, the idea of stripped-back acoustic versions of popular songs was relatively fresh. Now, more than two decades on, it seems you can’t move without stumbling over one, be it on Radio 1’s Live Lounge or a TV talent programme.