To follow a band throughout the growth and stages of its musical career is truly a rare and beautiful thing to witness. Led by London-born-and-bred vocal powerhouse Florence Welch, Florence + the Machine's 15-year run boasts five albums to their funky name and an ever-persistent and devoted following of fans from the earliest dog days to the most recent release of Dance Fever.
Discovering the angsty, witty lyricism of Welch during a childhood hangout in which my then-best friend played "Kiss With a Fist" on a loop through the antiquated speakers of an iPod Touch, I followed the power behind Welch's voice and the band's beats into high school with the release of How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. I must admit that album has rested rent-free on the console of my baby blue Volkswagen Beetle since the day I bought it at Target in 2015, at a time when I was graduating and turning into a fresh-faced college newbie — navigating treacherous waters and having so much to say but grasping at the ways in how to speak.
Three years later, High as Hope came like a balm to an aching, brokenhearted, and ghosted Isa as she was midway through college, and the self-awareness of who she was meant to be was culminating. As she got on a plane to Paris to study abroad for a month, the album served as a healing reminder of honesty and truth with oneself. As the background music for the transformative summer of 2018, I'd later fly in the fall to Washington, D.C., to see FATM live at the Anthem with two close friends from the study abroad program, waiting in the line as early as noon with Trader Joe's sunflowers in hand — ready to sway and gift my soul away to the energy of the night. First row and filled with the fiery love for these musicians, Welch grabbed the sunflowers as she swam through the sea of adoring fans, bestowing us with her soothing voice and simultaneous exuberant rage.
What about Florence + the Machine remains magnetic when it comes to a devoted following of fans throughout the years? With this year's spring release of Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers, Kendrick Lamar samples from High as Hope track "June" in the intro to the brutal fight between two lovers in "We Cry Together," crescendoing an admiration for the musical act's permanence in an ever-evolving contemporary landscape of one-time hits and social media reels. The charts attest to a peak in international acclaim for the band in the early 2010s, yet its fanbase remains consistently strong, with shows selling out venues and arenas across the globe.
Released on the spooky eve of Friday the 13th, FATM's latest album titled Dance Fever bottles equal levels of witchiness as previous releases while honing in on the intimacy of a performer's psyche as it goes through the motions of forced isolation. More and more, it feels as if Welch's growth throughout the years comes with more of a coupled shrewdness and unapologetic rawness than in prior albums and songs. Dance Fever is Florence at her wisest and most frenetic in the physical sense as she turns to the performance of dance as a central trope and crux on which to pivot lyrically throughout the choreomania of the narrative.
There is no church choir or sound-heavy opera accompaniment in Dance Fever. That in it of itself is the core of holy transcendence that I can attribute to the inexplicable pull fans have towards FATM and Welch after a decade of existence. It feels like you're listening to a gospel or sermon that tugs at your heartstrings, yet rather than being the truth of a higher power, it's a barefoot red-headed mortal lead singer making the most mundane of situations sound divine. Who else can make the reality of crying into your cereal at midnight sound heavenly?
Limited by the loneliness of performance in the absence of concerts and festivals, Dance Fever celebrates the waxing and waning of an epoch — modern and antiquated — through allusions to the Medieval and Renaissance times in thematic threads and aesthetic uniform and in unveiling what a musical act is when the crowd is out of immediate sight. For Welch, gradually aging in the spotlight and being left alone with her thoughts for the past two years garners personal questions about domesticity and expectations about becoming a mother that she explores in tracks such as "King" and "Dream Girl Evil." The witchy mysticism of a Lilith-like creature is awakened evermore in the album through the raspy echos and dark melodies. For South Florida devotees of FATM, the band's long-awaited return to Miami will arrive on Saturday, September 24, at FTX Arena.
No frills on stage are present when Florence + the Machine performs, aside from Welch's stunning floor-length priestess dresses that float around her and fans in the crowd who don costumes that equate to the dramatic excellence of the Met Gala's 2018 "Heavenly Bodies" theme. Bloody dried makeup tears, golden threaded corsets, and gothic nymph getups are just a smidge of the Dark Age tropes that can inspire you to dress up for FATM's upcoming show.
At the stage I stand on presently, teetering at the tender age of 25, I am affirmed evermore of the growing unknown of life. Comfortable or not with that uneasiness, one thing's for sure: I'm going to dance it out and try to deal with the present moment through the physical. A manic stan striving for relief or infected with dancing fever, I'm ready to be exorcized by the prophetic, healing power of Florence + the Machine once again.
Florence + the Machine. With King Princess. 8 p.m. Saturday, September 24, at FTX Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 786-777-1000; ftxarena.com. Tickets cost $36.50 to $95.75 via ticketmaster.com.
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