Photography by Eric Tra
The arena rock performance is an art form unto itself, an environment that demands a certain bravado and showmanship. Some bands are suddenly thrust onto the larger stage, having outgrown the night clubs and theaters they built their careers on. It can be an awkward jump for some. Florence and the Machine, however, have no uphill battle to speak of. They’ve been destined for arenas since the beginning, as they demonstrated in Seattle’s Key Arena last night.
Wearing white satin pants and a flowing beige blouse, frontwoman Florence Welch exuded a sense of gravitas before ascending the stage. Walking through the photo pit, she gracefully handed out flowers to audience members. Even though the whole show was seated, the audience stayed on their feet for the majority of the performance. It was hard not to. From the moment she started opener “What the Water Gave Me”, Welch and her nine-piece band’s energy ignited the room into an uproar of fist-pumping and jumping in place. The combustible excitement only grew stronger as she transitioned into “Ship to Wreck” from her latest album, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.
Calling Welch a powerhouse vocalist only serves to normalize her talent. Her ability to sprint around the stage while effortlessly belting high notes is inhuman. Even more impressive was her total command of the space. She exuded the confidence of Robert Plant in his prime. Even when she wasn’t jumping or spinning around the stage, she kept everyone rapt with her performance. She’d execute moves that, although commonplace for arena acts for decades now (standing on amps, running to the opposite side of the venue, singing from the crowd), felt new and exciting in her capable hands. She wasn’t imitating – she was actualizing the rock ‘n’ roll daydreams most of us have no doubt had in our lives.
The real secret to Welch, however, is the joy she exudes. Before playing “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful”, she talked about falling in love, writing the song, and carrying it with her through gray days before it finally made it onto the record. Every word she used to describe the song’s journey was punctuated with genuine affection. Nearly every aspect of her performance was life-affirming, but hearing her talk about the healing power of music was especially moving. Sure, it may sound trite and cheesy out of context, but in the moment it’s no wonder that everyone would want to wave their hands in the air and scream the lyrics along with her.
Even though each song overflowed with energy, nothing could match “Dog Days Are Over”. The adrenaline from the crowd was far from wearing off as Welch sent everyone into a frenzy. As the song reached its breakdown, she instructed everyone to embrace the people next to them, tell them you love them, and take something off and twirl it above your head. There was no hesitation as over 10,000 people hugged and took off their jackets. Welch joined in as well, shaking her vest in the air. It was a total embodiment of her ethos: bringing people together and celebrating the bond music creates between us. Not even an arena could contain that much joy.
What the Water Gave Me
Ship to Wreck
Shake It Out
Bird Song Intro
Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)
You’ve Got the Love (The Source cover)
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Sweet Nothing (Calvin Harris cover)
Queen of Peace
Dog Days Are Over
What Kind of Man