Concert Reviews

Florence + The Machine Finds Redemption at American Airlines Center

Florence + The Machine
With Grimes
American Airlines Center, Dallas
Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Florence Welch was in a more joyous mood than when she and her Machine last played Dallas in 2012. "More drunk," Welch said of the previous appearance to Wednesday's show at American Airlines Center. "Much more drunk." 
It's well documented that Florence + the Machine's earlier days was a more tumultuous time in Welch's life, marked in part by a nasty drinking habit, but Wednesday's visit defiantly pushed past that history. The unsinkable lead singer made use of every inch of the elegant stage space, twirling and frolicking in what looked like a sheer version of the dress that had everyone in a 72-hour uproar last year. She sprinted back and forth at times as she bade Dallas to dance with her. And when she ran out of room onstage, she used every inch of the arena.

It's not uncommon for singers to find their way into the general admission pit at one point or another during a show, but when Welch took off down the side of the arena's floor to the sound booth just three songs in during Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up), she came for what might seem like an obvious reason: to make as personal a connection as possible to some of the hardest fans (logistically speaking) in the audience to keep engaged.

When Welch bids her fans to stand up, to jump with her, or to embrace the person sitting next to them, it's about that connection, a feeling instead of an ego or spreading a party vibe. At the end of the day, live music is done best when it makes the audience feel something, which is not lost on Florence + The Machine. You walk away from their show knowing that these are performers who 'get it' in a big-picture sense, and you leave feeling like Welch was singing directly to you the whole time.

It's emblematic in the shout-out to a transgender fan named Lucas before a booming rendition of Spectrum. It rings true again when Welch gives the crowd the old "I left my choir in the UK so, Dallas, can you fill in for them tonight" trick before Shake It Out. It had the effect of turning the AAC into a revival space, excising the devil from the backs of any weary or troubled congregation members. In print the ploys might seem cliche'd but it's all so genuine coming from Welch. 

What Florence is doing has always been about very big feelings and very big sounds, and she uses both of those to forge the very real connections she has with her audiences. But that didn't stop her from on several occasions expressing awe at the size of the room. Not that the Machine had any trouble filling it - the only spots not completely full were along the sides on the arena's highest level and at the very back of the general admission pit.

Welch pulled out all the vocal stops along the way, from sweet fluttering coos at the beginning of How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful to her lioness roar commanding the vast space of the room on more acclaimed tracks like Dog Days toward the end of the show. It's no wonder fellow Londoner with matching vocal chords Adele loves Florence + Machine as much as Welch loves her

And if it weren't enough, the Machine has accomplished something on its How Beautiful Tour that typically eludes big-name artists on arena tours: they have latched onto a really interesting opening act in Canadian do-it-yourselfer Grimes. 
Grimes' set is a millennial's dream - a frenetic mix of set-it-and-forget-it laptop beats and breathy lyrics prone to devolve into screaming fits as if Claire Boucher was possessed by funky spirits. Vocally, she sounds like a deranged and possibly murderous version of Aqua's Lene Nystrom. During her set she's dancing (and so are her backup dancers), she's headbanging when the beats go real industrial, she's changing the beat and then she also has to dust off the rhythm guitar from time to time. 

What Grimes lacks as a live vocalist she makes up for in pushing the envelope. It's incredibly difficult to reproduce such a produced sound live on stage, and there are still kinks to be worked out, like when Boucher couldn't reach a note on Oblivion, one of Grimes' more acclaimed tracks and cursed a loud 'FUCK' into the mic before picking back up a few seconds later. 

She'll hopefully polish her sound for a live audience but you hope she's already learned that her best attribute is being an interesting artist, not necessarily a commanding vocalist with a huge range. 

What the Water Gave Me
Ship to Wreck
Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up)
Shake it Out
Sweet Nothing
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Cosmic Love
Long & Lost
Queen of Peace
You've Got the Love (The Source cover)
Dog Days

What Kind of Man
Drumming Song

Laughing and Not Being Normal
Flesh Without Blood
Venus Fly
Be a Body
Real Princess Part II
Kill V Maim
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Matt Martinez is a DFW-lifer who handles the Observer's editorial social media channels when he's not waxing cynical in our news, food and music verticals. Rest assured, he hates your favorite team. Matt studied journalism at the University of Texas and then again, for some reason, at UNT. He has written for the Austin Chronicle, the Denton Record-Chronicle and currently writes sports for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Contact: Matthew Martinez