I’m a rock chick. In the morning, I walk into my wardrobe and choose a black top from a selection of many, all black tops. I’m fond of saying “I like my music with balls!” and I would definitely say that I do not like my music with flowers and fairies. But tonight, I became a Boho, fairy-loving, crystal worshipping hippie in the presence of one Florence Welsh and her machine.
I have not been to the Sidney Myer Music Bowl for decades (literally). I hate paying money to sit on the grass with no hope of seeing what’s going on. This was the first time I’d been in the seats at the bowl and that I liked very much. It was lovely being outside and feeling the breeze blowing and watching the sunset framed by the arch of the sail that forms the roof. AND there was a decided absence of officious security guys ushering people back to the seats, as before the support band even came on, the front few rows were obscured by people standing by their seats and in the aisles. It reminded me of the Palais Theatre in the early 80’s when the orchestra pit was the place to be (even though your ticket may have said you should have been sitting in the balcony in the 2nd back row).
Warming up the fairies for Florence was Kiwi singer Marlon Williams. Marlon’s musical style is hard to define but seems to include touches of R ‘n B, folk, rockabilly, and danceable country. And it was not just the crowd dancing as Marlon gave us a selection of Jaggeresque moves during his set.
The stage was set for the arrival of the headliners and they were using the full width of the Bowl’s stage which annually hosts a full choir and orchestra for Carols by Candlelight. So it’s a pretty big stage but as this band has 8 musicians, they need a bit of room. And the harp takes up quite a bit of space. Yes, you read correctly, a harp! Florence entered looking ethereal in a totally sheer, peach dress and barefoot like every good hippie should be. I was reminded of Cate Blanchett as Galadriel, Queen of the Elves in Lord of the Rings or a young Stevie Nicks (in peach instead of black).
If Ed Sheeran is king of the gingers, then Florence is surely the queen. The gentle breeze blowing around the bowl did lovely flowy things with both hair and dress, accentuated by Florence’s leaps around the stage. Clearly a frustrated ballerina, she performed leaps and pirouettes covering the full width of the stage throughout her performance. And she’s very chatty. Speaking in a little girl voice between every song, she spoke of love, hope and joy encouraging her disciples to greet the person next to them with a hug and an “I love you”.
I am completely uninformed when it comes to the songs of Florence and the Machine but in that, I was very much alone. Most in the crowd were word perfect, appreciating songs such as Dog Days are Over, Ship to Wreck and What Kind of Man.
Towards the end of the set, Florence took off into the crowd, followed by a bewildered security guy. And boy can she run! She ran up and down the aisles, diving into a row of seats and standing on a chair to be worshipped like some kind of fairy evangelist to her devoted congregation. I took a photo of one of these encounters and it really appears like she is laying on hands curing her disciples of their ills and fears.
“My heart is hurting as I’m sure many of yours are on a daily basis but I just wanted to say to you please do not give up hope, please keep showing up, please keep doing what you can because hope is an action. “Change and a revolution in consciousness starts with individuals.”
Closing the set with a three-song encore, the fans lapped up Moderation, Big God and the sensational Shake It Out, leaving everyone more than satisfied. So despite being a cynical old rock chick who is about as fluffy as a thorny devil (I said thorny), I LOVED this show. Entertaining and uplifting, I left with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. Thank you, Florence, my queen.
Review Contributed by Wendy Smith