Describing a Florence + the Machine concert is tricky.
The experience deserves more than, “Well, they played this song, that song…” It's bigger than that, something more intangibly magical. Take the spirits of Stevie Nicks, Annie Lennox, and Siouxsie Sioux, channel them through a plugged-in orchestra, toss a little pixie dust on everything, and look at it through a lava lamp -- that's Florence + the Machine.
On Saturday, the U.K. rockers absolutely owned Minneapolis' Target Center with that formula. First, though, Seattle-based Perfume Genius warmed the crowd up.
Mike Hadreas (aka Perfume Genius) presented an aura of wounded fragility, a worldly elegance backed by spare keyboards and drums. As the crowd filled in, Hadreas went for it on every song, and there is a beauty to that.
“I’m officially popping off,” Hadreas said after “Wreath.” “My spirit is popping off.”
Florence Welch and her Machine’s stage looked like a cross between First Avenue’s classic skyline logo crossed with a 1980s televangelist’s set. That's fitting, considering the stage is essentially Welch’s pulpit, and her congregation does what she says.
Welch, resembling a ghost from the 1800s in her vintage-looking flowy dress, began the service with “June,” off of this year’s High as Hope. Sticking with the new album, “Hunger” was a blur of magic and twirling, before F+TM opened the throttle with 2010’s "Between Two Lungs."
“Do you want to dance with us? I hope you came prepared...” Welch told the ecstatic crowd, warning them: “It’s a physical show.” Introducing 2018’s “South London Forever,” she recounted her crazy teens and 20s.
“Speaking of complicated times," she said, "My heart hurts for what is happening today, but please keep doing good. Hope is an action.”
According to Ms. Welch, High as Hope’s “Patricia” has a fan in none other than Patti Smith, and Florence welcomed the punk legend's spirit into the performance. The song itself was an exorcism and a celebration of freedom and honesty. Arena-rocking tracks like 2009’s “Dog Days Are Over” and 2015’s “Ship to Wreck” got the crowd jumping, but slow-burners like 2018’s “The End of Love” also played well inside Target Center.
“We’re going to do something; it will make you feel vulnerable,” Welch explained, before asking the crowd to put their phones away, a move that's become a fixture of at Florence + the Machine shows. There's something beautiful about looking over a dark basketball arena and seeing no phones.
Just a couple of songs later, though, Welch asked the audience to light up their phones for the beautiful 2009 song “Cosmic Love.” With thousands of glowing screens aloft, it felt like the Hogwarts crew after Dumbledore’s death, using their miracle hand-held devices to push back against the darkness as one.
Welch always uses the stage for a full cardio workout. 2015’s “Delilah” found her sprinting around the general admission floor space, stopping only to dance with audience members. Welch & Co. finished the song in the middle of the crowd, jumping with wild abandon.
F+TM wrapped the main set with an exhilarating run through “What Kind of Man,” a tough song that elicited head-banging rapture. The empty stage pulsed and throbbed before an inevitable encore. Returning for a noisy, slightly chaotic version of 2018’s “Big God,” the band saw the crowd go bananas. For the finale of 2011’s “Shake It Out,” Welch took on the role of choir director, orchestrating a singalong.
“Excellent pitch!” she exclaimed, possibly a little surprised.
In the final moments of togetherness, the crowd tossed a rainbow flag to Welch, which she accepted with joy. It was fitting for such a blissed-out, communal performance by a band of sisters and brothers committed to shattering barriers.
The crowd: Goth moms, hip dads, witches, fortune tellers, slobs, skinny-jean lumberjacks, and everyone in between. All of us.
Overheard in the crowd: [Walking by the Jack Links store in Target Center] “Oh, I’m gonna fuck with Sasquatch, that’s for sure.”
Random notebook dump: The best thing I heard about F+TM fans was from the Target Center employee who helped me find my seat: “Her fans are crazy. They were here at 6 a.m. There was glitter all over the lobby.”
Between Two Lungs
Only If for a Night
Queen of Peace
South London Forever
Dog Days Are Over
Ship to Wreck
The End of Love
What Kind of Man
Shake It Out