florence+machine

Florence Welch leads her audience through a halcyon dream.

Image by Jason Persse

Nearly two weeks ago, Florence Welch felt something snap in her vocal cords, spurring a last-minute cancellation of the final segment of Florence+The Machine’s European tour. But as Welch approached the microphone at the McMenamins Edgefield on Sunday night, barefoot in a billowing dress as the wind blew through her red hair, her voice rang loud and clear. After 9 days of silence, Florence was back.

For an hour and a half, this British singer-songwriter serenaded the crowd with her rich and powerful voice that critics call “primal without sacrificing control.” Portland’s sold-out show was the indie rock band’s third stop on their North American tour that promotes 2011 album Ceremonials, and Welch—an ethereal, fairy-like idol—did not disappoint.
The concert opened with a full-strength rendition of “Only If For a Night," quelling any rumors of future show cancellations as Welch chanted in a voice only slightly too beautiful to be called a scream, above the sounds of roaring fans. The explosive set that followed alternated between instrument-heavy songs like “Cosmic Love” and acoustic numbers like “Heartlines.” Harp arpeggios and guitar solos performed by her fellow bandmates, Robert Ackroyd, Chris Hayden, Isabella Summers, Mark Saunders, and Tom Monger, complimented Welch’s warbling perfectly.

Considering most of Florence+The Machine’s songs were reportedly written while Welch was drunk or hung-over, they are everything you would expect from a love-sick, intoxicated musician: emotional with a hint of insanity. Welch says her music is meant “to sound like throwing yourself out of a tree, or off a tall building, or as if you’re being sucked down into the ocean and you can’t breathe.” Welch gracefully but precariously flows through a show with tai-chi moves, encouraging the crowd to join her in a dance that she says requires “enthusiasm not skill.” Her frequent interactions with the audience highlight her notoriously quirky personality and shatter the fourth wall as she borrows bobby pins from fans, orders the crowd to piggy-back one another, and blows kisses to the young and old. Enraptured crowds, in turn, tend to follow her every command to clap, jump, or sway.

“The Dog Days Are Over”, the band’s 2009 Grammy nominated single that continues to drive their popularity in the United States, made an appearance near the end of Sunday’s show, satisfying both new and loyal fans, who danced devotedly to the beat of her tambourine and egged the band on into an encore that consisted of two Ceremonials tracks, “Never Let Me Go” and “No Light, No Light." Welch danced gently off the stage on a wave of ecstatic audience cheers, the train of her dress flowing behind her, leaving the kind of shimmering reverie in her wake that only music born of intoxication could create.

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