As seen from the air, it might have looked like a Christian rock concert—all stained glass backdrops and swaying arms. I was dying to see Florence + the Machine and was curious how the music would translate in a live performance. Adopting the pseudo-spiritual/religious vibe of her most recent album, Ceremonials, singer Florence Welch and the members of the Machine impressively recreated the atmospheric moodiness of her studio work.
After demurely taking the stage with a dignified British wave, Welch’s voice exploded into the amphitheater, barely contained by the sound system. Created was a church where Welch is both preacher and deity, calling forth the fervor of the crowd and basking in their adoration—alternately skipping and twirling across the stage or appearing possessed by the depths of her own emotions. But rather than coming across as a well-orchestrated act, her excitement, emotion and interaction with the crowd all felt endearingly genuine.
With only two albums buoying her outrageous success, it was no surprise that all the hits were covered like “Shake it Out,” “Dog Days are Over” and “No Light, No Light.” Her sizable backing band, including a badass harpist and some back-up singers who were the ones hitting most of the highest notes, was essentially flawless but sadly they remained unnamed cogs in the Machine.
Welch’s ever-so-slightly tweaked version of “Never Let me Go” was so steeped in heartbreak that I even choked up a little. Combined with her Stevie Nicks-like flair for dramatic appearance (including a remarkably precise wind that sent the sheer layers of her dress swirling perfectly around her) the overall result was truly impressive. It may not have been a religious experience, but it was still a damn good show.