When Florence Welch said her concerts are her only emotional outlet, she really meant it. Her performance last night in Montreal, which acted as her band Florence + the Machine‘s debut at the Bell Centre, showcased the range of emotions the English singer endured over the last two years due to a tumultuous relationship. The end of that relationship is the subject of the band’s latest album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, which came out a little over a year ago. It wasn’t the first time the band performed songs from the new album in Montreal, however; they took over last year’s Osheaga Music Festival. This time around, Welch and her band graced the stage with an audience of 10,727 people.
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Nearly every song off the new album is an epic anthem and blended with Welch’s baroque-esque vocals, it’s impossible to fit the band into a specific genre making the concert one for all to enjoy. If you have seen the band’s 47-minute short film “The Odyssey”, which strings together music videos for nearly every song on the new album, then you know that Welch can dance, but her energy reserves were quite impressive last night; she danced maniacally around the stage barefoot, barely stopping to catch a breath. The most memorable moment of the night came early when Welch leaped off stage during “Delilah” and ran around the mosh pit to the back end of the arena, forcing a bodyguard to run with her. She made her way to a smaller stage, and serenaded a fawning audience.
For a set made up of mostly ballads and loud rock anthems, “What the Water Gave Me” underwhelmed as the opening song, but the pace picked up immediately with two head-bangers “Ship to Wreck” and “Rabbit Heart” off their debut album Lungs‘, before moving to the forcible album title track “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.” It would be impossible not to dance, or at the very least sway, to most of the songs in the set–especially “Spectrum” and “You’ve Got the Love” which saw the lead singer bounce from one end of the stage to the other–as each song boasts a melody that evokes movement and happiness. Even the slower ballads like “Cosmic Love” and her acoustic version of her hit song with DJ Calvin Harris “Sweet Nothing” had people moving. The motion stopped, however, when Welch came to “Various Storms & Saints,” a song, she explained, that almost didn’t make the album due to its vulnerability. Most people took to their seats once the somber track started, but everyone’s eyes remained on the singer as she belted out the powerful lyrics.
Welch made several special requests of the audience; to accompany her as a backup choir on “Shake It Out”; to not look at their phones for a whole song, and to take off an article of clothing and wave it around like a flag during “Dog Days Are Over,” and not a single request was denied. The show seemingly ended there but Welch and her band returned to the stage for a two-song encore, performing “What Kind of Man” and “Drumming Song.”
With her humble bursts of excitement and staggering vocals, it’s not hard to see why Welch is a favourite in Montreal. Whether she was dancing around like a woodland creature, giving funny anecdotes about how she wrote her songs, or nearly diving off stage into the crowd, Welch managed to deliver a raw and otherworldly performance, while leaving it all on stage.
The opening act, Of Monsters and Men performed for a mild-tempered audience, but delivered a solid and enthusiastic hour-long set that included some of their best “Little Talks,” “Crystals” and “Mountain Sound.”
WATCH: Part One of “The Odyssey”