If you were at the Florence + The Machine Dance Fever Tour concert at Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul last Thursday, September 8th, you were witness to the divine mysteries of a high priestess of indie rock worshiping the return of live stage performance. Wasn’t it magnificent?
Mykki Blanco and their cabaret took the stage at 8pm and provided show-opener vibes. The American rapper’s cabaret set included several tracks from her 2021 mini album, Broken Hearts & Beauty Sleep, infused with funk, soul, jazz, and R&B. The themes of ‘Patriarchy Ain’t the End of Me’ seemed to especially resonate with the crowd.
After a pause to remove stage masking and reset the dais, the headliners’ set kicked off at 9:06pm.
Band members (can we call them, collectively, The Machine?) took their places, flanking either side of the bare white stage floor.
Tiers of icy-white candelabras all shrouded in fabrics like stylized cobwebs or forgotten dust covers stood at the back. A rectangular frame of crown molding suspended overhead with shrouded icy-white chandeliers served all serve to establish stage boundaries and carve out a theatre at one end of the open arena floor.
Then Florence, herself, stepped to the mic stand at the very front of the white stage, robed in a long cream-colored gossamer gown trimmed in broad red lace and sequins. She was barefooted and her long red hair hung loose in her characteristic style, and she looked every bit like some mythic figure stepping out from ancient European folklore.
Greeted by cheers and adoration, she launched into a cold open with their recent single ‘Heaven is Here.’
And if Florence Welch already looks the part of a premodern supernatural being, her voice only elevates the illusion – how can mortal lungs sound like this?
Next came two songs from their new Dance Fever album (from whence the tour takes its name): the defiant and commanding ‘King’ and then, “…for the anxious flowers,” Florence said, ‘Free’ – and then salty water was escaping from my eyes without my permission. Me. I am an anxious flower, I guess.
(Reviewer aside: Do other people cry for a voice? I’ve witnessed fan-tears of excitement at seeing a favorite performer in-person, I’ve seen fans faint, overcome by their FEEELS; I’ve even experienced a full-body fangirl freak-out once myself. This wasn’t that. I can’t listen to a full album from F+T.M. without weeping at some point -her voice is soul-piercing, and pokes and needles at my heart- and then I have to turn off the album. So there was no way I was getting out of a live show with dry eyes. Is this a weird me thing? Or do others fall victim to emotional manipulation by a good vocal range, too?)
‘Dog Days Are Over’ turned me into a full sobbing faucet a few songs later. Can I excuse it by saying the tear-seal had already been broken by ‘Free’? And it had been a long week – maybe I needed some catharsis? (I’m just glad ‘Grace’ wasn’t on the set list because I might not recover from that, live.)
Enough About the Weeping, How Was the Show?
The band sounded amazing. Florence sounded impossibly huge, and un-human, and perfect. The spectacle and drama of the production design and lighting cues were *chef’s kiss* ace.
Stand-out moments that didn’t involve this middle-aged woman weeping like a fool next to strangers who were just trying to enjoy the show:
Florence giving her security crew a good workout as she stood on floor railings and laid hands on the audience during ‘Prayer Factory’ and ‘What Kind of Man’ -a mutual anointing and welcoming back to the live concert experience- and then again as she took a twirling tour around the arena floor during ‘Choreomania.’
The backlit, black scrim-shrouded fury-dance of ‘Big God’ – which in an ancient time and place should have summoned otherworldly beings to do Florence’s bidding.
And while the finale of ‘My Love’ and ‘Restraint’ followed by a three-song encore was immensely satisfying, the most transcendental moment of the night (for me, at least) came just before: ‘Cosmic Love’ performed behind the monstrous shroud of black scrim cloth and a light-show projection of fluttering wings. Impeccable ethereality.
Go see Florence + The Machine live, if you ever can. At least once. Just to experience her voice – it exceeds expectations.
All the better to do it on the Dance Fever Tour, as the album is a child of the pandemic lock-down, written in a time of great uncertainty, and the album’s tour is now a celebration and cherishing of the magic and power of live music, and what it means to both audience and artists.
But it might make you cry.