“Is this a show? Is this a cult?” laughs Florence Welch on stage, her flowy off-white dress glistening in the harsh stage lights. It is a question that would seem absurd at most concerts but seems strangely apt at a Florence + The Machine concert. After all, the show has all the hallmarks of a cult. It has a leader: the ethereal Florence Welch. It also has a following: the band is playing the 15,000-capacity Resorts World Arena in Birmingham. It even has human sacrifices (during ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)’, Welch asks people to ‘sacrifice others’ by sitting on each others’ shoulders). Arguably the only difference between a Florence + The Machine concert and a cult is that you (unfortunately) are forced to leave the former at the end of the show.
Florence + The Machine’s Dance Fever tour was originally going to take place in November 2022, but it was postponed when Welch broke her foot during a show. The arena is packed, and as the concert is about to start, a rectangular frame descends from the ceiling. Covered in intricate chandeliers and candles, it illuminates the entire venue with an eerie glow. It is also breathtakingly beautiful. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the redheaded Welch emerges from the frame, clapping along to a beat that fans quickly recognise as the opening to ‘Heaven is Here’. “Oh bring your salt, bring your cigarette,” she sings. Her voice is powerful and crisp as she punches the air in time with the authoritative drum beats her bandmate plays behind her. It is a spine-tingling display of music, light, and sound and sets the bar high for the rest of the show.
Welch appears to resonate with every line she sings
‘Heaven is Here’ is followed by ‘King’, which proves only to be a warm-up for ‘Ship to Wreck’. At this point, the entire arena is already jumping up and down in unison. Welch runs the length of the stage, stopping only to spin around herself or fervently jump on the spot. Watching this performance, it is painfully clear how and why Welch broke her foot, but it is also a skilful display of her artistry. Combining dance with song, Welch appears to resonate with every line she sings. From acting out lyrics, to delicately raising and lowering her hands by her side to allowing her see-through dress to catch the light, it is difficult to not feel entranced by her performance. She emanates an aura of peace but also one of power. What’s more, in songs such as ‘Dog Days Are Over’ and ‘Hunger’, she gives the impression she has hurt and been hurt—but has managed to not only rise above it but also thrive.
Her performance on the Dance Fever tour is particularly poignant given that her 2022 album of the same name was written during COVID-19. Songs such as ‘Morning Elvis’, ‘Free’, and ‘My Love’ mourn the loss of togetherness and unity, but hearing these songs in such a large venue surrounded by so many people make each piece a celebration, rendering their lyrics a memory of a bad time.
Her emphatic delivery means not a single note goes unheard or unappreciated
And that is exactly what a Florence + The Machine concert is: a celebration. The crowd is filled with people wearing flower crowns, flowy clothing, and elaborate makeup. Yes, people are crying, but it seems to be cathartic as if to commemorate some sort of recovery. As songs transition from weeping, emotional ballads to upbeat, punchy sing-alongs, there is a rollercoaster outpour of emotion from both Welch and the crowd.
The show culminates in its encore. It begins with ‘Never Let Me Go’, a song that Welch describes as being particularly difficult to sing. Her emphatic delivery means not a single note goes unheard or unappreciated. The uplifting-yet-mournful ‘Shake it Out’ follows this. This is when the crowd transforms into a flurry of limbs as energy pulsates from the standing area below to the seats.
The only song left is is ‘Raise it Up (Rabbit Heart)’. As people sit on others’ shoulders, there is a crowd full of grins stretching from ear to ear. It is an overpowering and euphoric spectacle, and proves how much people enjoyed the concert.
So whether you know Florence + The Machine’s entire discography or have only heard ‘Dog Days Are Over’, do yourself a favour and go and see Florence + The Machine live in concert. It is an experience to remember.