The stage is a tiered topographic landscape in beech wood laminate and the colors are muted and warm. Florence Welch enters after the eight-piece band, which includes Isabella Summers on keyboards and backing vocals, Robert Ackroyd on lead guitar,Tom Monger on harp, Cyrus Bayandor on bass, Aku Orraca-Tetteh on percussion and backing vocals, Dionne Douglas on violin and backing vocals, Hazel Mills on keyboard on backing vocals, and Loren Humphrey. Wearing a flowing semi-sheer beige full-length dress, and flowing red hair, Welch represents the image of the tragic character Ophelia.
During the second song of the evening, “Hunger”, from Florence + the Machine’s fourth album High as Hope, Welch began to swirl, lunge and dance across the landscaped stage with her billowing dress. Throughout the evening Welch brought herself to a dizzying ecstasy like a modern-day Isabella Duncan, who believed that dance was the true “luminous manifestation of the soul”. Welch summoned her own expression, balancing the wild untamable with moments of composure and confession.
“I was a disaster”, says Welch about her childhood and coming of age in South London prior to playing “South London Forever” from High as Hope. a lamenting recollection of her youth, where Welch brings us all the back to a place of drinking, friendships, love and disappointments.
“Everyday is a new heartbreak; I really do believe in love,” Welch adds. Though she admits her songs from her previous albums may speak about the vulnerability of loneliness and unrequited love, she seems more optimistic in her new work.
“Please keep doing good if you can.” Florence states, appealing to the humanity and sense of community that she sees as part of the solution to larger issues.
“Hope is action…It starts with an individual,” as she asks us to do the minimum: vote. “Are we all together? Is everybody one?”
The questions all seem simple enough, but there is a depth to this, a yearning for something better, something more complete…something perhaps spiritual.
Florence + the Machine delivered a full set where the fans’ audible singing illustrated the depth of her following at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT on October 13th. Hits such as the 2010 U.S. hit indie pop dance track “Dog Day’s are Over,” roused the crowd in both voice and dance. Well, it’s more jumping in a sort of pogo style. And speaking of punk, though her sound contains little resemblance to its early days, there are certainly undercurrents of 80s post-punk Brit pop in her sound. The catchy “Ship to Wreck” is rooted in the likes of Echo and the Bunnymen and The Pretenders, and ensures a happy audience.
The guitar and drums on“What kind of Man” created a relatively aggressive backdrop to her suitably edgy delivery that expresses feelings from defiance to rage. The directness of sound and message stands out against some of her other works such as the somewhat formulaic ballad “End of Love, which didn’t seem to bring the audience to anyplace new.
Nevertheless, Welch is a true creative being, who is reminiscent of the magical theatricality of 70s British singer Kate Bush, the sexy coolness of Annie Lennox, and the authenticity of her hero – poet and singer, Patti Smith. However, Welch is very much her own voice, a force of musical flight, whose songs from her own emotional struggles, albeit melancholic at times, ultimately uplifts us.
For the encore, Florence + the Machine played it big with “Big God” and the 2011 hit “Shake it Out,” during which Welch left the stage and ran around the floor, dove into the crowd and lost the camera crew who was trying to follow her. There, among her people, she touched, kissed, hugged, and found intimacy with her fans as true individuals. As the final song ended and the lights changed, she has not retreated backstage but is still present forehead to forehead with a fan being one.
Photos by Paul Bloomfield