Back in December, Florence and the Machine stripped things down for a taping of MTV’s venerable “Unplugged” series. Not surprisingly, this presented a rather unique set of difficulties for the usually raucous band, though not the kind you’d expect.
“It’s such a huge thing, and it was so intimate, and I really enjoy doing things stripped back and having the strings and the choir. It was really wonderful,” Florence Welch told MTV News. “But what to say in between? I got so bashful. I was so grateful to be there, and I was trying to express that, and it just went into this weird, stilted speech. It ended up with me trying to talk but not saying any words…. Singing is fine. Talking, not so much.”
Then again, we suspect Welch is just being modest. On Sunday, April 8, Florence and the Machine fans will get to witness every intimate moment of the band’s “Unplugged” performance and decide for themselves, beginning with the premiere at 11 p.m. ET on MTV and Unplugged.MTV.com. (Machine-heads in Europe, Latin America and Asia can watch at FlorenceandtheMachine.MTV.com.) Then, at midnight on April 9, the Florence and the Machine: MTV Unplugged album will be released via iTunes. The album hits physical retailers on Tuesday, April 10.
“I genuinely hope they don’t include my talking,” Welch laughed.
Sorry, Flo, but there’s going to be a bit of your between-song banter. Of course, there’s also going to be no shortage of amazing performances in the 10-song set, including stirring takes on her hits “Dog Days Are Over,” “Shake It Out” and “Cosmic Love,” plus a pair of covers: “Try a Little Tenderness” and “Jackson” (with guest vocals by Queens of the Stone Age mastermind Josh Homme).
Judging from that list of songs, you’d think the “Unplugged” taping was a well-rehearsed affair. But as Welch explained, nothing could be further from the truth.
“We kind of winged it. I felt really comfortable; I’m kind of in my element in that environment, when you’re able to really play,” she said. “The thing I don’t enjoy about TV performances is that I have to sing live to a backing track, because most times they can’t afford to mic up the whole band, so you have to sing to something that’s just going to keep going, with or without you. And performing in a stripped-back sense, with a band that’s playing around you? It’s so organic and there’s so much freedom to it.”
Welch’s “Unplugged” performance has already earned rave reviews from one very prominent guest: Kanye West, who was front-and-center for the taping and made his approval known from the very get-go.
“He was dancing and really going for it in the front row — it was amazing,” Welch said. “At awards shows you can’t really see anyone, because there’s lights and they’re kind of far away, but for this, it was just like Kanye was just there. I covered ‘Try a Little Tenderness,’ and he’d just sampled that for the Watch the Throne album, so I was like, ‘Um, hi … you kind of got there before me, but I’m going to do this now, and it’s kind of for you.’ He was smiling the whole way through, and I think he’s a total genius, so to have him there was really incredible.”