There are few times were a concert will leave me speechless, lost entirely in its presentation that I need time to recoup. Such was the case with the Florence + the Machine show at United Center. This was my first time seeing Florence Welch and her band after many years of missed opportunities and close calls, so I was prepared for a fantastic evening. Or so I thought. Florence + the Machine deliver one of the best shows I’ve seen, truly taking advantage of the arena atmosphere and transforming it into something grander, more impressive, and ultimately more satisfying than I could have imagined.
Perfume Genius started off the night with an incredibly intriguing performance. The musical project of Mike Hadreas, Perfume Genius has been making some of the most intriguing and satisfying indie pop in years. Hadreas’ songs evoke strong and almost overwhelming elements of love, devotion, pain, and empowerment, often in subversive and challenging ways that make their meaning all the more striking. Onstage, Hadreas’ and his band give off an almost Lynchian vibe as he contorted his body while belting out these alluring songs.
When it came time for Florence + the Machine to make their way to the stage, the crowd had packed the arena. Every waited with bated breath before letting out a massive roar at the presence of Florence Welch. Within moments “June” began with its Chicago referencing line receiving a massive pop for the crowd. As if the audience wasn’t already taken by Welch’s magnificent aura, the song catapulted the enthusiasm sky-high.
Welch’s impact was palpable as the entire audience hung on her every move, word, and pause. Rarely is a performance as commanding and downright mesmerizing as Welch, whether she traverses the stage so gracefully yet at a full sprint, jumping and dancing for joy as her band digs deep into their songs; or is taking a moment to speak with the crowd.
Throughout the night Welch implored for love and unity, taking toxic masculinity and these trying times to task. “Not that there is a lot of toxic masculinity at a Florence + the Machine show,” she noted, urging the crowd to come together during “Patricia” in what was a clear highlight of the night. “Rage with us” she implored before diving into the beautiful Patti Smith inspired song. Other times she would ask the crowd to embrace, hold each others hand, and not record these moments, to let them live on only in our memories. Unsurprisingly, the crowd obliged, their reverence for the evening being so resolute the entire time.
Florence + the Machine’s set list hit on the notes you would want from the band. High as Hope took most of the spotlight, but earlier albums were represented in full force. “Dog Days Are Over” was met with a resounding response as the crowd jumping and singing along with Welch. “The End of Love & “Cosmic Love” had everyone’s emotions bubbling over, while the poetic timbre of “Queen of Peace” echoed through our ears the rest of the night . Not a single song was wasted or felt out-of-place, instead bringing together a collection of songs that felt like they weren’t to be sung together in that order.
Toward the tail end of the show, during “Delilah”, Welch abandoned the confines of the beautiful stage and ran out to the back of the United Center and into the crowd. There, in the center of her adoring fans, she dance and sang as thy place flower crown after flower crown on her head. There was no line between Welch and the crowd, they were one as she made her way back to the stage, countless fans joyfully crying and cheering her on. Immediately afterward she stood on the front row barricade for “What Kind of Man” as the crowd leaned forward and held her in place. These magical moments felt spiritual at times, elevating the atmosphere from typical concert territory to an otherworldly experience.
To end the night, Florence + the Machine went all out with “Shake It Out”, one final song where the whole crowd could let all their excitement for the show. The big banners that had been waving throughout the night flew off the hinges and rolled back, as if the energy exuding from Florence + the Machine and the rest of the United Center was too much for them. It was a perfect send off to a night full of hope, love, and beauty that never wavered.