Review: Florence + the Machine at ACL
By: Emily Booher
All was silent, aside from the recording studio style setup that appeared to be forming on stage. The sun had been pointing on the stage for the remainder of the afternoon, and there I stood dead center with a group of sweaty music fanatics for five hours to see a woman who plays music more fantastical than our wildest dreams.
The backdrop shimmered in our faces, made out of silver reflecting mirrors that radiated throughout the crevices of a harp, organs, guitars, mics, and a tech crew. As the sun went down, thousands began to fill up the space behind us waiting to have the vastness of Zilker Park filled with Florence’s song.
Though Florence Welch has been creating music for a long time, she has only released three records—spacing out the releases. But in listening to each, it is apparent she takes as much care into releasing her work as she does making her fans feel loved. She spoke to every single human in the audience during her Sunday night ACL performance and the crowd responded positively to her warm words on stage. In fact, this entire mass of people sang their hearts out to each song like it was an anthem they’d known by heart for their entire lives.
Soft spoken, yet powerful in message, Florence graced the stage as if she was born there. Her presence was timeless goddess-like and her words were perfectly crafted, both sung and spoken. The instrumentation was nothing short of majestic as if she had created her own symphony orchestra onstage—her voice acting as the conductor. Dancing around in bell bottomed jeans, we could have easily been witnessing a 70s disco show, though the sea of iPhones surely gave it away.
Above all, Florence gave off such a presence of power, her bold nature being something easily lost in many modern performers. Appropriately calling her tour How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful to match her new record of the same title, she hints at nothing short of cinematic greatness in live performance.
She has a new found voice in this record, her usual magic being intertwined with realism, all mixed with the poetry of lyrics like, “Oh love remind me, what was it that I said? I can’t help, but pull the earth around me, to make my bed” from Ship to Wreck and “between a crucifix and Hollywood sign, we decided to get hurt” from the title track. With lyrics so candidly written, it seemed surprising at how soft spoken and graceful she truly was in person.
Florence’s mannerisms were that of royalty, which she played the part of perfectly, singing popular cult single, “Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up),” proceeding to skip down to the front of the crowd and adorn her head with a patron’s flower crown while singing enchantingly in the arms of her fans. The lyrics, “Raise it up, raise it up!” were chanted louder than ever before to many ears that had been waiting for years to hear them in person.
Her aura radiated, with a whirl of harps and organs swirling about her, and she encouraged so much audience participation that even the people in the very back were moved by her. And though she caused quite a theatrical spectacle, she threw in some surprising acoustic versions of normally chaotic songs Cosmic Love and Sweet Nothing. Her sweet voice echoed high above the park with lines only she could have written like, “No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight, in the shadow of your heart.” And even in an audience of thousands, there was a stillness and a quiet place to be found as she crooned away.
In the end, the decision on whether to see The Weeknd, or a full set of Florence + the Machine was not a difficult one to make. A performance of the vastness of The Machine is not something seen everyday. There was timeless beauty on the Samsung stage that night, coming from a performer whose music hits you like a force of nature. At the end of her almost two hour set, one could have sworn that they had just witnessed a holy awakening, for the magical electricity in the air was not something of this world.