Concert Review: Florence and the Machine at House of Blues in Boston, MA
Unsurprisingly, Florence and the Machine has spiraled into fame rapid-speed since the release of the debut album, Lungs, in summer of 2009. After listening to a preview of artists who were slated to play at Coachella last year, Florence and the Machine was hands-down my favorite on the entire list. Florence Welch’s voice is rich, gripping, soulful, eerie and soothing all at the same time. A true siren, she’ll manipulate your emotions and turn you into nothing but a limp rag doll, magnetically and majestically sucking you into her world of sweet piercing pain. When I’d tried to get tickets for her concert at the Paradise last April, I was shocked that a London artist could sell out a crowd in an hour and a half yet still fly so under the radar, without anybody budging even slightly to put tickets on craigslist. Frankly, I’d never felt so physically heartbroken over not getting into a show. Her music feels personal and bewitching – even without paying attention to lyrics you can’t help but try to huddle under her dark vibrations like a warm blanket. It is my favorite winter album – the songs of entrancing ice queens and other such frosty fantasy.
The minute I saw the Florence and the Machine Boston concert announcement, I wasted no time in buying tickets for what was certain to be an amazing tour kick-off Halloween show. With such haunting melodies and a flair for drama, I went in with high expectation and was not disappointed! The House of Blues was sold-out, and was completely packed. Much of the audience came to the show dressed in costume, and I admired the Mad Men, the Royal Tenenbaums, the gypsies, the football players, the pirates, the Spongebobs, the Victorian corsets, the Mario and Luigis, and most importantly, the machines! Clever. The crowd, mostly young, mostly women, and mostly white, was surprisingly polite, at least from where I was standing. Oftentimes at sold-out shows people get a little prickly and start jutting elbows, but for this show, despite being crammed, people were chatting and trying to ensure everyone around them could see. I was surprised by the neighborly concert-goers at a show I’d expected to be sheer chaos, but I’m certainly not going to complain about the lack of distracting mayhem.
After some rather bizarre but decent openers (angsty one-man-band-plus-friend Hanni El Khatib and 18-20 year old Smith Westerns, a hipster garage surfer-throwback pack), the crowd got pretty antsy for the main event. Around 10:00, Florence’s band crept onto the stage in skin-tight skeleton costumes, just like the ones in Daft Punk’s “Around the World” video back in the late ‘90s. They slinked behind keyboard, guitar, tom-heavy drum kit, bass, and harp (one of her signature instruments). Florence glided forward shortly thereafter, barefoot, swaddled in corpse-bride costume with full-on zombie make-up and her hair wreathed in autumn garland. As she marched in mock-funeral-procession to center stage, the crowd was electrified by her magnificence before she even opened her mouth.
It’s possible that Florence sounds even more incredible live than recorded, but I realize that’s a tall claim. Possessed by the holiday, she embraced the role of corpse bride in all its theatricality, and even mused how her band is virtually a Halloween band: with songs about coffins, werewolves, blindness, and ghosts, why couldn’t every day be Halloween? She twirled and drummed and literally shrieked, she cloaked and joked and kabuki-danced – she was even provided a fake marriage proposal by her keyboardist, Isabella “Machine,” who was dressed as a corpse groom. We were subsequently informed that it was Isabella’s birthday, and Florence requested we sing our “scariest rendition of ‘Happy Birthday,’” for which we heartily obliged. Florence declared that Boston “F**king rules,” and even treated us to a United States debut of a new song from Between Two Lungs, “Strangeness and Charm.” I’m in love with the reggae break-down at the end, and if this new song is any indication of what genius her special edition album release holds in store, we’re in for a serious treat. The crowd seemed pretty well-versed in the lyrics to the full Lungs album, but predictably the largest crowd reactions were during “Cosmic Love,” where everyone sang along, and “Dog Days Are Over,” closing the encore, the front of the crowd throwing glitter into the air, and the entire audience jumping up and down for the song’s last several counts.
I still regret that I was never able to see Florence before she truly blew up in the US, but this is one of the most memorable shows I’ve ever attended, few Halloween shows could have been more appropriate, and while I’m sure she’ll have a spectacular tour, I can’t imagine any of her upcoming shows topping this one. Now, I’m off to put Lungs on. Again. I think I might have a problem…
My Boy Builds Coffins
Girl With One Eye
Happy Birthday Isabella Machine!
I’m Not Calling You A Liar
Between Two Lungs
Strangeness and Charm (Debut)
Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up)
Heavy In Your Arms
Kiss With A Fist
Dog Days Are Over