Halfway through her set at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, Florence Welch — barefoot and draped in a translucent peach gown — stood in front of her eight-person Machine to introduce her next song as a tribute to a “kind and magical woman — who is also a New Yorker!” She tiptoed around the impending namedrop, continuing: “She said when I perform it that means she is here with all of us, so thank you for being here — thank you for being here, Patti Smith.”
But before diving into “Patricia,” Welch noted that while the song is about Smith, it’s also about toxic masculinity — “just the super angry bits in the middle.” She was quick to add: “But there’s none of that here tonight because if you’re here it’s because you probably really believe in women — so join us, rage with us.” And in the most poignant moment of the night, Welch delivered the chorus — “I believe her, I believe her, I believe her” — over and over again, with such weight, that it felt like it was a message to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford.
Welch is only two months into her High as Hope tour, but it’s still hard to imagine that she’s not exhausted — both physically and emotionally. The nearly two-hour performance is as cathartic as it is athletic, with rarely a moment where the South London singer is standing still. She’s twirling across the stage through new songs like “Hunger,” and throwbacks from her debut album like “Between Two Lungs,” with the carefreeness of a child, but the confidence of a prima ballerina. When her mic stand fell over during “Only for a Night,” she leapt over it, like a gazelle (as her microphine ringed with feedback Welch asked, “Can you all hear that, or is that just me? That happens to me all the time but it’s just the angels,” she grinned.)
In between each boisterous song the ethereal, feral fauna that is Florence Welch was somehow able to collect herself, sounding ever so meek, if not nervous to say things, like: “Thank you so much. The energy in her is so good, very juicy, very feminine.”
Before diving into the emotional mass of High as Hope with songs “South London Forever” and “100 Years,” Welch reflected on recent “complicated times,” and how her “heart hurts,” but offered up this piece of advice: “Hope is an action. And it does matter. And it will make a difference,” then she requested that everyone hold hands. In that moment, in her force field, partners held each other tighter, and strangers inched closer.
After this, Florence continued to keep things intimate. Halfway through “Dog Days Are Over” — with audience clapping making the room vibrate — she slipped out of the chorus: “Shhh,” she whispered. “Embrace the person next to you. Tell a stranger you love them because I promise you that you do.” She twirled her fingers around, directed at the audience.“Brooklyn, We’re going to do something strange and vulnerable. But do you trust me? Put your phone away.” She roared back into “Dog Days Are Over.” A few songs later, she then summoned the cellphones back to be used as “stars,” during “Cosmic Love.” And just like that the audience was under her spell.
In the final song of her set, she turned to her 2015 album “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful,” to perform an angsty rock number, “What Kind of Man,” — another nod to our complicated times and ever-present toxic masculinity. She crept off the stage and bolted through the arena, running for her life (and from security guards), and into the crowd. If you didn’t think moshing was a thing that happened at Florence and the Machine shows, you would have stood corrected last night. Sprinting back to the front row she propped herself up on a few lucky fans, who all competed for just a touch, some sort of connection, just hoping that her magic might rub off on them. Now raised upright, like the patron saint of music, on the hands of her followers she whipped her long red hair back and forth, elegantly convulsing, she howled, “What kind of a man loves like this? What kind of Man?”
After disappearing for a moment, Welch returned, with opening act Kamasi Washington and his band, to perform a haunting “Big God,” and ended with “Shake It Out.” “Thank you so much for helping me. What if you came and hated it? She giggled. As glittering confetti fell from the ceiling, Florence spun round and round until just like that she had vanished into thin air.
“Between Two Lungs”
“Only If for A Night”
“South London Forever”
“Dog Days Are Over”
“Ship to Wreck”
“End of Love”
“What Kind of Man”
“Shake It Out”