Rain fell as the skies opened up, but armed with free ponchos, fans of Florence + the Machine gathered at the Sydney Opera House’s forecourt to celebrate the Australian leg of the band’s How Big tour.
Singer Florence Welch graced the outdoor stage wearing a flowing peasant blouse, white bell-bottoms, and what has become her most notorious fashion accessory: bare feet. A smart choice from the songstress, as she didn’t hold back one inch of her energy from the performance. Running, leaping, prancing and twirling, moving quickly in a childlike manner from one side of the stage to the other with her red locks flowing behind her like wildfire. Florence excitedly jumped around on stage, urging different sections of the audience to do the same. She danced in an eccentric manner, thrusting limbs in frenzied fits as if throwing out her emotions into the abyss for everyone to see. She held out her hands, fingers wiggling, drawing in the crowd’s energy as she pressed her fingertips to her open lips, gobbling up the ambience – a move that is signature to all of her music videos in the Odyssey series. Watching Florence Welch perform live on stage was like watching a hyperactive child, a possessed drug addict, and an ethereal being from another world, all co-habitating in the one body.
The show opened with hit song What the Water Gave Me and comprised of songs from all three of the band’s studio albums: Lungs, Ceremonials, and How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. From start to finish, Florence’s voice was a piece of pure warbling perfection, delivering her songs as seamlessly live to her audience as it had been from the recording studio. The vibrancy of songs from their latest album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful really attracted attention with the included use of horns which complemented Welch’s powerful voice. The most recent songs weren’t the crowd favourites though with fans rejoicing at the sound of old hits You’ve Got the Love, Dog Days Are Over and Shake It Out, all welcomed with excited screams from the crowd.
It was clear that Welch had put a lot of effort into creating this tour. She knew every single musical nuance and timed her movements to accentuate them. In the rendition of Cosmic Love, for instance, the singer twirled in circles towards the end and perfectly stopped and tapped her finger mid-air as the final harp chord sounded, and the lights faded to darkness. Noticing fans were too busy taking photos or recording on their phones to properly enjoy the concert, she asked them to pocket their devices before she started singing Third Eye. Encouraging them to listen with their hearts and see with their eyes, remembering with their minds rather than their phone screens. The effect was sobering with the majority of fans tucking away their phones to enjoy the rest of the performance. Welch later ordered the removal of a clothing item during Dogs Days Are Over, so the crowd obligatorily tore off their ponchos, waving them madly above their heads as rain fell on them. The combination of Welch’s requests definitely brought a sense of community to the crowd, and being asked by Welch to hug everyone in your vicinity only added to it.
At the end of the night, I was asked by another crowd member whether I was satisfied by the performance. My answer? 100 per cent. Seeing Florence + the Machine live was well worth the $130 ticket price. The How Big tour will continue at the Sydney Opera House until November 17, before continuing on to Brisbane. – Jessica Holmes
Top photo of Florence + the Machine by Dan Boudist Boud from Sydney Opera House’s Facebook page.