Florence and the Machine Palladium Ballroom Tuesday, May 1
As I scrolled backwards through my notes from last night's show, I found something I had jotted down a few days earlier, I think from an episode of Parks and Recreation: "Don't half ass two things. Whole ass one thing."
I took that as my spirit's path at the sold out Florence & the Machine show at Palladium. As British frontwoman Florence Welch floated onstage in a black sequined cloak/choir robe, part Stevie Nicks and part Athena, there was an immediate attention to detail and flow: the black, draped chiffon of her dress, the stained glass panels and gilded harps behind her, the mood lighting. This was to be an event.
I imagine Welch might be a Bowie fan, and is sort of taking performance back to that Ziggy Stardust age of stagecraft and theatrics, not afraid to bring drama and operatic intensity to a rock and roll setting. It's just that now, they're power ballads for a more plugged in generation of teens and young adults.
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I admit, I was never really a fan of the group. Maybe it was because I was constantly hearing their anthemic strains from shows like Gossip Girl or the soundtrack to the Twilight franchise. Last year's Ceremonials, however slick, had its charms. So did Welch, as when she asked the men to prop the ladies up on their shoulders briefly, right before "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)," so she could see them and tell them they're beautiful. It may sound sappy, but at a certain age, watching an idol, that validation is electric.
Welch, as the hunter, stalked the stage, swinging her cloak. She held notes and climbed octaves that seemed to take all the air out of the room. The random scream at the end of "Leave My Body" was terrifying and primal. She knows how to do the narrowed-eye come hither, practiced in the art of restraint.
Despite an awful drum sound bludgeoning most of the 90-minute set, the last half, including "Heartlines," "Shake It Out" and "Dog Days Are Over," built a momentum that's rare in the live-music arena these days. A two-song encore saw them out, but that quote in my notebook was a bit of foreshadowing.
Overheard in the bathroom: "I imagine she smells like expensive shampoo and clove cigarettes."