A hockey arena can be a big, impersonal place. But Florence + The Machine had a mission. They were going to bring the love to the people, and come hell or high water, the people would respond.
Grimes had the task of opening for Florence. While successful, still there were obstacles, both technical and otherwise. After a bass-y, trance-y opening with her trusty dancers, Grimes played a set of arty dance that was occasionally rocked up with the addition of guitars.
There was definitely a sizeable contingent of people at the Xcel Center who were there to see Grimes, and they enthusiastically responded. She was playing through a bad bout of the flu, and ran offstage at one point. It wasn’t to throw up, thankfully, but for a technical issue.
Grimes’ retro-feeling, future-looking, interpretive dance buzz set the stage nicely for Florence.
The Machine, and they are a big machine, walked onto a stage bathed in twilight and haze. Florence unexpectedly walked up a set of stairs in front of the stage looking resplendent in a gown of… Well, it was bluish, greenish, and sheer. She looked like a mermaid Loretta Lynn. Or like she was wearing a Grand Ole Opry branded nightgown.
The lighting was amazing, and there was a huge glitter wall behind the stage that added a ton of dynamics as the set kicked off in earnest.
Opening with “What The Water Gave Me” off of 2011’s Ceremonials, the band was muscular, Florence’s vocals crystalline as they took over every inch of the arena.
It was immediate.
She beckoned the crowd, and the crowd responded. When they launched “Ship To Wreck” off of the most recent How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, it was bananas. It should be mentioned at this point that Florence has some super fans. At least around me, there were repeated screams of “We love YOU” and “She’s our queen.” So, yeah, folks dig on Ms. Welch.
Florence asked the crowd, “Minnesota, do you want to get high with us?” before launching into a spritely version of 2010’s “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)”.
She put her sprinting skills on display as well, as she ran from the stage to the back of the arena to sing to the people there, and then back again. She is fast.
“Thank you so much for having us in this enormous place.”
Florence made the Xcel intimate and personal. She and the band played song after song of joyous, cathartic noise, and was able to control silence when needed. It was a sight to behold.
From “Shake It Out” to “Delilah,” “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” to “Cosmic Love,” this was a love-fest for the packed arena.
“Cosmic Love” was dedicated to our own dearly departed Prince.
“It is a small song. I hope he hears it.”
After the heart-felt dedication, it was back to percussive, emotional, floor-shaking rock and roll. Last year’s “Mother” was a slippery little number with a short, dreamy guitar solo.
Florence + The Machine finished off their main set with Between Two Lungs’ “Dog Days Are Over,” and a call to take off our clothes. Florence asked everyone to hug each other (which everyone did), and to take off a piece of clothing (which fewer people did, but still an impressive number followed orders), and wave it in the air.
By the end of the song, shirts and who knows what else were being thrown to the stage until the song ended in an impressive flash of brilliant musicianship from the band.
The crowd definitely wouldn’t have left without an encore. Thankfully, Florence + The Machine didn’t make anyone wait for it.
They barreled through a combative “What Kind Of Man” off of How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Florence got right in the faces of some folks up front as she finished the song in the crowd. 2009’s “Drumming Song” was the perfect closer.
“There's a drumming noise inside my head that starts when you're around. I swear that you could hear it. It makes such an all mighty sound.”
We heard it, Florence, and I think you heard us right back. Give and take, artist and audience, we were all family for one night.
Critic’s admission: I was surprised they played “Ship To Wreck” so early in the set. I thought they would encore with it, and play “What Kind Of Man” early on. Shows what I know.
The crowd: Older and fancier dressed than I expected.
Overheard in the crowd: “She’s like a honey badger. She doesn’t care!”
Random notebook dump: Rock show harp is a rare thing.