The Ting Tings

iTunes Live Presents:
The Ting Tings and Florence & The Machine
9 July 2008

With an hour left to go before headliners Katie White and Jules de Martino, better known as The Ting Tings, are set to take the stage for night nine of iTunes Live music month, a heavily eyelinered and brightly dressed crowd at Koko are already swaying and screaming under the club’s jumbo-sized disco ball.

Now, the bittersweet voice grabbing attention is floating out of a dainty thing that looks something like a Bowie-influenced, forest-nymph version of Karen Elson. Florence Mary Leontine Welch (that’s a lot of names for someone who’s mostly red locks and glitter eye shadow) is ripping blues lines while twirling her wrists, tai chi-style, toward an increasingly hypnotised audience. Her onstage persona has been described as “Hitler, without the despotism”. The soulful, charismatically spastic lead singer of Florence & The Machine can command a room.

It would be easy to jot Welch, with a hot-cocoa voice and lungs powered by gale-force winds, on the next line of the UK’s booming roster of power ladies, led by Amy Winehouse and Duffy. But with lyrics like “You smashed a plate over my head/Then I set fire to our bed”, her sound is more hardened folk than modern Motown. She bears striking similarities to Leslie Feist, the Canadian singer who, quite ironically, blew up after her song 1234 played on an American iTunes commercial. If the Apple effect has as much influence on Welch (who tours with two male backup musicians) as it did on Feist, then the 21-year-old South Londoner will be on radio stations everywhere before long.

When Welch and her band take their equipment, and decorative birdcage, and leave, the energy pulses from the edge of the stage to the second balcony. For the night’s main act, a red Ray-Ban clad de Martino starts drumming onstage to usher out White. The mood is up, and The Ting Tings are ripping into the songs from their debut album, We Started Nothing. White comes across as a younger version of Debbie Harry as she drags her neon-yellow capped microphone across the stage for the snappy, pulsating Shut Up and Let Me Go.

The Ting Tings, who call themselves “the Sonny and Cher of Salford Precinct for the Noughties”, have clear chemistry during their show and deserve the attention they get for songs like We Walk and Be the One. Surprisingly, they use their CD’s title song for their encore, rather than the catchier That’s Not My Name, which sped past songs by Rihanna and Madonna for the number-one spot on UK charts back in May. White and de Martino are dynamic on stage, but the surprise success story of the night is Welch and her machine. They didn’t get the closing spot, but given a few months, they might have opening acts of their own.

– Jill Hilbrenner