“Epic”, “ethereal”, “overflowing with an abundance of love”- all perfectly good descriptors of Florence Welch and her show, which took over the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre this past Friday.
Opening for her were Iceland’s melodic quintet Of Monsters and Men, whose majestic, sweeping tunes fit in perfectly with the night’s aesthetic. Against a swirling grey background they played their lush anthems, all seemingly inspired by Icelandic landscapes and coastlines. The band were very lively and gracious, talking to the crowd at length between songs.
Vocalist Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir implored everyone to get up and dance before launching into one of the band’s biggest songs to date, the twinkling “Mountain Sound”. Co-vocalist Ragnar “Raggi” Þórhallsson introduced one song by quipping “This is a song about house….by a lake. It’s called Lake House”, showing off the band’s great sense of humour. The monster single “Little Talks” was enhanced with an extended trumpet solo, much to the crowd’s delight.
The night then took a turn for the extravagant as the stage transformed into a show of lights and mirrors. Florence + The Machine appeared with clouds of dry ice billowing behind them, shrouded in darkness before the first dramatic explosion of sound. A glimmering, sequin-like backdrop amplified the light show by tenfold. But all the accoutrements in the world don’t mean a thing if the artist has no presence- and Florence Welch has presence in spades.
There isn’t a modern artist alive today with her towering voice, much less her vivacious personality. Bounding around the stage constantly throughout the set, she seems to have an endless supply of energy. At one point she took a sprint around the whole Amphitheatre, performing a good portion of a song in the crowd. Between every song she spread messages of love and understanding, imploring people to be kind to one another in a way that was anything but preachy. Before playing “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” she asked for everyone to put their phones away- and they did. Not a single device in a sea of thousands was up for the duration of the song.
The music, of course! Drawing from Lungs, Ceremonials, and last year’s How Big How Blue How Beautiful, Florence managed to maintain her operatic vocals from beginning to end. Sky-reaching anthems like “Shake it Out” and “Rabbit Heart” were belted out with intense passion as a symphony of backing musicians provided the necessary gravitas. It’s basically a foregone conclusion that Florence will one day win an Academy Award for an original song, as her music was made to be played on a big screen. Even the stripped-down version of “Cosmic Love” begged to be played over a montage of wide open vistas. The set was capped off by the heavy crunch of “What Kind of Man”, last year’s devastating hit single.
Florence + The Machine get bigger every year, both in terms of popularity and the scope of their music. It begs the question if there will be a venue big enough to hold their larger-than-life ambition the next time the band comes to town. For our sake, let’s hope so!