Madonna – Living For Love (Offer Nissim Living For Drums Mix)

Ever since Madonna’s performance of a remixed ‘Living For Love’ at the Brits I’ve been busting to find a studio version of the remix used. Literally, I’ve searched for it for months, but to no avail. It’s been a real mystery. You’d think that since she was going so far to perform it live it was bound to be on the ‘Living For Love’ singles. It wouldn’t have been the first time she’s done that either. Cue the confusion when I discovered that it wasn’t on the singles or on the Super Deluxe disc of Rebel Heart. I couldn’t even find a name for the remix, much less anyway to obtain it. A studio version just didn’t seem to exist in the public domain. I even posted questions in fan forums which didn’t work either. All options exercised, I gave up.

Yesterday I looked at the Rebel Heart tour setlist, and I saw the name ‘Living For Love’ (Offer Nissim Living For Drums remix). Instinctively I knew it was the elusive remix, which turned out to be correct. YouTube and Soundcloud postings aside this studio version doesn’t seem widely publicised at all. It’s inexplicable really. Stranger still, Offer Nissim has done two other mixes of ‘Living For Love’ and they can be found on the single. It’s very strange stuff indeed. Anyway, at least there is a studio version of this excellent remix after all. It’s primal, dark and boasts a much harder hitting arrangement than the original, which is musically rather mediocre and uneventful. The arrangement in this remix more than makes up for the cliched lack of lyrics in the song. Yes, it’s one of those remixes were the original lyrics are reduced to little more than spliced up soundbites, omitting large portions of the lyrics in their entirety. Thankfully Madonna rectifies this when she performs it live and consequently the remix works even better in a live context. Until the inevitable Rebel Heart live album is released though, this will tide us over nicely!

Florence & The Machine @ SSE Arena 9/9/15

On Wednesday the How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful Tour kicked off in my hometown of Belfast. Getting a chance to see the gig at the very last minute was brilliant because it’s my first time seeing Florence & The Machine live (finally!). How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is also my favourite of her three albums which was just a bonus. And on top of everything else I thought she was mesmerising at Glastonbury. My expectations for her couldn’t have been higher and, simply, she was everything I could have hoped for and then some. She was spellbinding.

Before I get sidetracked by all things Florence though, I have to commend the support act, The Staves. They’re three English sisters who perform folk-rock music. Their strong point lies in their harmonies though – when they sang together, it was stunning. Their forty-five minute set was bookended by acapella segments which were spine-tingling. They could have quite easily performed forty five minutes of their acapellas and still be as good. They were a very fitting way to open a Florence & The Machine gig and I daresay many of the fans who will be attending the tour will thoroughly enjoy them. They’ve released two full length albums so far and I’ll definitely be checking those out very soon.

Then, at 9pm, the glaring SSE arena lights give way to thundering screams. My seats were perfect and as they were situated to the right of the stage, beside the steps, I could even see Florence walking on. The atmosphere when she walked on, all resplendent and regal, was electric. She has an extremely captivating presence and you can definitely see the influence of Stevie Nicks on her stage presence.

Musically, she began – exactly like Glastonbury 2015 – with one of my favourite songs by her, ‘What The Water Gave Me’. It is a rather unusual opening song but it works in that capacity in a really strange way. Exactly like Glastonbury ‘Ship To Wreck’ followed that which left the crowd dizzy with excitement

Overall the set list was quite similar, but not identical, to her Glastonbury 2015 headlining show. The running order was a bit different, last night her main set ended with ‘Dog Days Are Over’ instead of it being in the encore. The encore last night consisted of ‘Long & Lost’ (which she didn’t do at Glastonbury), ‘What Kind Of Man’ and ‘Drumming Song’. The only other song that she did last night but not at Glastonbury was ‘Mother’. Of course she didn’t cover Foo Fighter’s ‘Times Like These’ last night like she did at Glastonbury but that’s hardly surprising.

As a performer she is simply incredible though and doesn’t receive enough praise. She’s so elegant and graceful yet there’s just the right amount of manic athleticism in her performances. She’s very intense to watch (in a great way) and she pours every last drop of her energy into her performances. For instance, she had two large platforms at each side of the stage so she could interact with those of us in the tiers at either side of the arena. She ran between them at breakneck speed. She also ran down to the very back of the standing area extremely quickly and she sang a portion of a song to the fans at the very back rows. I thought that was very sweet and considerate. Her crowd interaction all night was fantastic. She came across so warm and just very likable, and very funny too. In all honesty, she was faultless. I have five gigs coming up before the year is out and it will take something special to top Florence Welch!

Last Minute Tickets for Florence & The Machine

Sometimes last minute schedule changes are a good thing – I’ve learnt that this week. Friday started off as a normal day for me, but it took an unexpected turn when a family friend suddenly said to me “Clare, I’ve got a free ticket to see Florence & The Machine, do you want to go?”. My friend knows I’m a big fan of her so – once I had metaphorically pinched myself to check I wasn’t dreaming – I said I would so excitedly that I probably sounded incoherent. I think I’m still somewhat in disbelief at that offer.

I’ve been a big fan of Florence & The Machine since Ceremonials, her second album, came out in 2011. Why Ceremonials and not her critically acclaimed first album, Lungs? Lungs did bemuse me when I listened to it when it came out in 2009. My fifteen year old self just didn’t “get” it. In the following two years though my music tastes dramatically changed (in other words, grew up). Ceremonials won me over and I’ve never looked back. My favourite album of hers is actually her third and most recent one, this year’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. It’s one of my top three albums of 2015 easily so I was gutted when it looked like I wouldn’t be attending her Belfast show. This year has been so busy albums and gig wise for me and I had purchased tickets for some other shows just before Florence had announced her tour dates. The disappointment only increased when I watched her Glastonbury headlining performance live on TV. Thank goodness I had some last minute good fortune I am so unbelievably excited that I will be able to attend after all!