an electrifying show of unity and dance

Florence Welch executes her sporadic dance moves with such poise and agility that you’d think she’d run onto stage wearing a pair of ballet slippers. As she twists and leaps, barefoot, to the euphoric surges of recent single ‘My Love’, her limbs seem to merely scrape the air; she sways and claps to the song’s spiralling arrangement, while her band members never miss a beat.

Backlit by a soft spotlight, this almost celestial impression is reinforced by the south London vocalist’s beautifully detailed all-white dress and cape, and the copious use of the smoke machine. She roams the stark, almost empty stage design as pastel pink lights blink and beam like the glitter-strewn flower crowns that adorn enchanted fans’ heads. After a mesmerizing Shake It Out ‘, she beckons her audience at London’s Theater Royal Drury Lane, the world’s oldest theater in continuous use, to come closer. They obey, rising from their seats in quiet respect and awe like a congregation (no wonder: the venue is 10 times smaller than the O2 Arena she’ll play in the same city later this year).

Credit: Parri Thomas

It’s apt that Florence + The Machine have chosen to wrap up an intimate tour in support of forthcoming fifth album ‘Dance Fever’ (due May 13) in such a grand setting. There is much religious symbolism at work: the coiled frustration of ‘Big God’ is healed by the earthly, groove-led balm of ‘What The Water Gave Me’. The upper register of Welch’s voice reaches a scream at ‘King”s heaving peak, before ‘Heaven Is Here’ is blasted at the rafters. New track ‘Girls Against God’, meanwhile, speaks to an inward search for hope – a song, she explains, that is fueled by “Old Testament-style fury” and represents “the many spiritual breakdowns I’ve been on”.

But there are moments, too, where the effect is more grounded. After the adoring front rows continue to honor her return with consecutive standing ovations, Welch gifts her tambourine to a fan. Later on, she picks up a letter that’s been thrown on stage and holds it close to heart as the percussive judder of ‘Hunger’ kicks in. Hands shoot to the air, the song’s tightly wound pain and despair unspooling during the unbridled release of the chorus.

During set closer ‘Dog Days Are Over’, the rousing call-to-arms from 2009 debut ‘Lungs’, Welch stops singing as the final, tear-stained chorus arrives and lets 2,000 voices take over. Couples kiss; others grab their mates tightly. “There’s no need to be self-conscious when we all dance together,” she tells us with a warm laugh, underlining her unrivaled ability to facilitate joy and wonder in shared catharsis.

florence + the machine live
Credit: Parri Thomas

Florence + The Machine played:

  1. ‘Shake It Out’
  2. ‘King’
  3. ‘What Kind Of Man’
  4. ‘Kiss With A Fist’
  5. ‘Free’
  6. ‘Rabbit Heart’
  7. ‘My Love’
  8. ‘Big God’
  9. ‘What The Water Gave Me’
  10. ‘Girls Against God’
  11. ‘June’
  12. ‘Hunger’
  13. ‘Ship To Wreck’
  14. ‘Heaven Is Here’
  15. ‘Spectrum’
  16. ‘Cosmic Love’
  17. ‘Dog Days Are Over’

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