Florence and the Machine Starts Things Off on an Exuberant Note in Miami

Florence Welch at the American Airlines Arena.
Florence Welch at the American Airlines Arena.
Photo by Laura Jane Coulson

If Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine ever decides to run for public office, her tendency to physically interact with large crowds is going to give her security team nightmares. Thursday night, the flame-haired songbird attempted to grab hold of almost every single person at the American Airlines Arena in Miami, but she didn’t need to graze fingertips with everyone to successfully do so.

Welch began the first show of the How Beautiful Tour by calmly emerging from the audience and walking up the stairs to take her place, like a random stranger plucked from the throng for an impromptu concert. Dressed in what seemed to be a pink polyester outfit that would be more at home in an office in the '70s, Welch really should have worn a track suit with the amount of work she was about to put in.

From the first song, “What the Water Gave Me,” she was literally off and running. The powerful number taken from her second record, Ceremonials, was a gunshot to start this furious race of sight and sound. Barefoot and unbridled, Welch was soon in a full sprint, hopping and twirling back and forth across the stage. It was a wonder she had the breath to sing after all the exercise. She paused for the choral section of the song, which brought the entire arena’s voices together for a moment that created chills normally reserved for the end of concerts. 

Behind Welch and her Machine was a shimmering background made up of silver tiles that appeared to be alive, moving continuously like a disco ghost running its hands across a mercury curtain. It was the visual representation of a crackling, electric energy that coursed through Welch, the band, and ultimately, through the building.

Holding nothing back, Florence and the Machine barreled into the next song, the jangly “Ship to Wreck,” much to the roaring delight of fans. Before “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up),” she beckoned the crowd to do so with their bodies as well as their voices and climb on the shoulders of friends and strangers. 

Welch didn't hesitate to get up close and personal with the crowd.
Welch didn't hesitate to get up close and personal with the crowd.
Photo by Laura Jane Coulson

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Throughout, there were plenty of call and response moments that, frankly, were not too unlike being at a megachurch on a Sunday. The gospel influence on many of the band's songs puts the group in a family tree that branches out into Baptist church choirs. Speaking of which, the Machine is a glorious collection of talented musicians and lovely voices that, combined, form a tidal wave of chamber pop. And by doing that, they allow Welch the freedom to be everything all at once.

For example, she can take off and dash around the floor of the arena (as she did), make a stop in the rear to sing to the nosebleeds (while sounding just as amazing) before finishing her victory lap and jumping into the outstretched arms of the front row, donning a Coachella flower crown given to her by a fan.

The headwear is far from the only present the Magic City has ever gifted Welch. “Miami is full of high highs,” she told the audience, “and low lows.” She was referring to “Delilah,” a song written after a particularly harrowing evening here. As she constructed a narrative about her life, her music, and the connections to Miami, it was impossible to ignore the massive difference between her almost shy, soft speaking voice and the earth shattering pipes she unleashes during songs, a contrast especially notable during her acoustic rendition of “Sweet Nothing,” her collaboration with Calvin Harris. The grandiosity was reignited with the titular track of last year’s How Big, How Blue , How Beautiful, a song that like most of her work is a majestic, opulent number worthy of Broadway or the trumpeted arrival of royalty.

For “Cosmic Love,” a song written after an epic hangover, the cell phone camera lights (and at leacame out (and at least one lighter) to provide the stars blown out in the lyrics. Meanwhile, with a harp gently twinkling, Welch spun delicately like a music box ballerina.

Welch with her fans.
Welch with her fans.
Photo by Laura Jane Coulson

“I lost my heart and my mind in Miami,” she continued. “But it was a beautiful time.” The same could be said of this show, especially the encore.

Welch recreated the moves of the music video for “What Kind of Man,” dropping hard to the stage at the close of the song, lying motionless on the ground for a few seconds afterwards either for effect or because it hurt as bad as it sounded. Soon though, she popped back up again for another theatrical performance, this time it was for the finale, “Drumming Song,” from her spectacular debut LP, Lungs, which bathed the band in a dramatic red light that pulsated to a heartbeat rhythm.

Like Stevie Nicks, Florence Welch used to, well, flow during her shows. These days, she’s more like a Mick Jagger/Steven Tyler performer, as evidenced by her recent music videos. With the release of How Big How Blue How Beautiful, some sort of restraint has come undone and a wonderful fury has her fully rocking out both on camera and on stage.

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American Airlines Arena

601 Biscayne Blvd.
Miami, FL 33131

786-777-1000

www.aaarena.com


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