Florence + the Machine gave a spirited performance on Saturday at the Memorial Coliseum in Portland, OR to a near capacity crowd with many adoring fans who hung on to every word, body twirl and even instruction.
The face and name behind the band name, Florence Welch looked radiant wearing an all-white outfit that shimmered silver at times with bell bottoms that would make anyone into 1970s fashion nostalgic. She often glowed in front of the rest of her bandmates, outfitted in black. Welch was graceful, a bubble of energy and sang beautifully through the 16 song, hour and 45 minute set.
The band from London, England opened with “What the Water Gave to Me” off of 2011’s Ceremonials a song that doesn’t get much, if any, radio airplay anymore but is a strong cut in their growing collection of hits. Florence then followed with the heavily aired “Ship to Wreck” from their latest album before diving into deeper album tracts from their three album releases including “Shake it Out,” the gospel-esque “Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up),” and “Third Eye” another off the latest record.
For “Rabbit Heart” Welch asked the audience to put away their cell phones and experience the song truly live. They certainly obliged, it was like how seeing a concert used to be – no glowing boards or arms raised to steady the amateur video making. In fact, the request seemed to have a rippling effect as the portable telephone machines seemed almost absent thereafter, at least from those on the floor, close to the stage.
Florence and the Machine played a strong selection of songs off their third album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, released in June, including the title tract which Welch said was the first song written for the album after seeing a striking skyline while in the United States provided some inspiration. Other new cuts included “Delilah,” “Mother” the rocking “Queen of Peace” with a great use of the band’s horn section and of course, the very popular “What Kind of Man.”
Little needs to be said about Welch’s vocals. Heck what can be said? She rocks pure, raw talent and what comes forth is, at times, stunning elegance. She can belt out aggressively charged lyrics on “Dog Days Are Over” the song that put them on the map in the United States and then ever so sweet for softer touches like the very spiritual “You’ve Got the Love” and “Cosmic Love” when it was just her and Tom Monger on harp. Speaking of sweet, even conversationally she oozes honey.
However, a lot can be said of her stage presence. Clearly Welch loves to sing but a very close second, if not on equal footing is her obvious love of performing. She sang, hopped, ran, sprinted, jumped and skipped through songs nearly the entire show and at times looked like a one-woman Riverdance routine something helped by her long flowing locks of red hair. She truly seemed in her element, smiling often and laughing, a welcome contrast to the darker and moody overtones Florence and the Machine songs employ.
Her affection for fans also cannot be understated. During “Rabbit Heart,” just four songs in, a female fan rushed the stage who was immediately apprehended but as she was carried away Welch stopped the escort service for a brief hug and serenade before sending her off with the stage guard. During the same song, Welch sprinted down one side of the arena floor and traversed her way through the sound board equipment on the opposite end of the main stage and sang to the crowd on top of a speaker while throngs of the devoted crowded around her, of course with cell phone cameras in record mode. She pulled two fans up for more hugs before sprinting back to the main stage.
Though Welch gets the recognition, the Machine is indeed a machine with 11 backing musicians and singers including two trumpet players, a trombone player, the harp, of course guitar and drums and Isabella Summers on keyboards who also co-writes songs for the band. Welch and her Machine were set in front of a mirrored backdrop that resembled a flat disco ball, with crimson drapery offering a playhouse look complete with six sets of theater style lights.
Welch is a welcome sight to the current state of music that seems so canned. She writes or co-writes her own material, she wasn’t raised on whose got talent television, just dedication and authentic ability. The result? Original material that sounds fresh and a growing legion of fans.
Florence + The Machine Portland Setlist
- What the Water Gave to Me
- Ship to Wreck
- Shake It Out
- Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)
- Third Eye
- You’ve Got the Love
- How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
- Cosmic Love
- Sweet Nothing
- Queen of Peace
- Dog Days Are Over
- What Kind of Man
- Drumming Song