A few months ago, I had hardly ventured into the magical world of South London outfit Florence + The Machine, led of course by the enticing Florence Welch. Naively, I had previously thought their music to be out of my grasp; a collective so grandiose that I would never fully come to understand. But now, as I sit in the aftermath of quite possibly the best musical experience of my life, I’m baffled by anyone that doesn’t have the all encompassing desire to drown themselves in Florence’s art and existence.
She presents as a polarizing combination of utterly calm and uncontrollably chaotic. Perhaps that’s what translates so deeply into her songwriting, a smooth descent into madness. While exploring the band discography, I began to feel captivated on a level I have yet to be able to fully articulate. Florence’s work transcends music, she taps into our collective spiritual consciousness and forces you to release. Remove the chains that cling to your ankles, and instead allow yourself to float skyward in surrender, to where Florence is surely waiting for you.
Opening with June, she took her place at the centre of the stage. It took less than a few seconds to hear the impeccability of the instrumentation behind her. Vocally, there was hardly ever any doubt that Florence delivers a performance unlike any other. But to be in the same room, to hear such an outstanding voice singing to you over and over again. I felt the sound waves seep into my skin and transform my blood, as if every note she offered was choosing which direction it would run.
Florence fostered a connection between every single soul in front of her, encouraging such an intuitive sharing of love through her presence alone. We were witness to a shedding of skin and a losing of oneself as the performance hastily took her over. Two songs in, and the woman that had walked barefoot onto the stage mere minutes before had shifted. She became a powerful force as she ran back and forth, commanding attention as her ghost-like dress chased after her, forever unable to keep up.
It was hard to imagine how a band with a career in music stretching back 10 years could pull together a set to convey such a journey, yet it was done seamlessly. Florence honoured her beginnings, referencing the bands debut album Lungs before exploding into a breathtaking performance of Cosmic Love. She shared messages of hope and love and personal heartbreak, overcoming her shyness when addressing the crowd to do so. A command to put away phones, embrace the person next to you and tell them you love them, ‘because I promise you, on some cosmic level, you do,’ created an atmosphere of pure positive energy and acceptance. She anchored the audience to the present moment and refused to let them go.
Not one to regularly give myself over to an experience, I was shocked to feel my throat constricting during an immaculate performance of The End Of Love. Usually a stand and stare concert goer, maybe a little foot to foot shuffle if I’m feeling brave, I had hardly anticipated the tears that broke free during the song. I was a wreck, but in the best possible way. Florence lifted the weights from my shoulders and made sure I couldn’t reach to pull them back down.
Dog Days Are Over signaled a collective eruption, as one would expect. Though it was still far greater than I ever could have imagined. Delilah saw Florence leave the stage to join the crowd, fully immersing herself into the mosh pit; so deeply that even the spotlight struggled to keep eyes on her.
A heart piercing encore consisting of recent single Big God and Ceremonials anthem Shake It Out proved that no matter what direction Florence steps in, she takes you with her. As if the musicality wasn’t enough, Florence + The Machine use their live show to instil us with hope. To remind us of the possibilities and to be a shining example of what music is capable of.
She may seem other worldly at times, but perhaps she is just an example of what the rest of us could be. Of what we already have inside of us.