“Hope is an action” and “a revolution in consciousness starts with individuals,” declared front-woman Florence Welch after leading Florence + The Machine in a resolute rendition of “Queen of Peace” at the United Center in Chicago on Friday, Oct. 19.
With each poetic lyric, expressive movement and perfectly pitched note, Welch further embodied the power of harmony and the strength that comes with being thoughtful, gentle and kind. Her contagious optimism coursed throughout the stadium as she encouraged fans to let down their guard, hold hands with each other, embrace a stranger and do the most uncomfortably intimate thing of all… put away their cellphones. The crowd happily obliged each request, in effect creating an impenetrable force field of positivity that only grew stronger as the show went on.
In spite of these times of “daily heartbreak,” a collective optimism was in the air throughout the performance. Not because Florence + the Machine, or fans for that matter, chose to ignore the many problems facing the world today, but because everyone at the United Center shared a goal of overcoming any and all obstacles to evoke a respite of widespread beauty.
Welch explained that the above-mentioned How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful track, “Queen of Peace,” is about the messiness in life – especially the early teenage years – and that she loves every one of her fans who are currently experiencing the tangled ups and downs of adolescence. “Please don’t give up hope,” she said. “Please keep doing good in the ways you can.”
Much of the evening’s 16-song setlist was dedicated to material from Florence + the Machine’s latest release High as Hope. “June” – complete with its cheer-inducing lyrical reference to Chicago – opened up the show with Welch’s textured vocals pleading, “Hold onto each other.” Later, the Patti Smith-inspired “Patricia,” which paired delicate harp phrasings with pulsing tom tom drums, tackled toxic masculinity with defiant love. “Not that there is a lot of toxic masculinity at a Florence + the Machine show,” Welch joked, noting that all the men in the crowd clearly support women.
“Rage with us,” she added with a smile.
“Hunger” provided the first of many opportunities for Welch to embody freedom by spinning, skipping and frolicking across the stage. The abandon of her improvised movements awakened mindfulness and her choreographed elements – like the strong stances struck during “100 Years” and a music box ballerina twirl at the end of “Cosmic Love” – left the crowd in awe.
As with any Florence + the Machine show, the barrier between audience and artist was virtually non-existent. Welch sprinted throughout the general admission crowd during “Delilah,” leading fans on the floor in an epic dance circle, and “Dog Days Are Over” found the entire audience jumping as high as they could to match the vocal Goddess’ energy. The pre-encore closer, “What Kind of Man” began with Welch whipping her hair while balancing on the front row railing before she handed out hugs and healings to some of the band’s biggest fans.
Hope is a force to be reckoned with especially when it resides in a crowd of over 20,000 like-minded concert-goers. Florence + the Machine will continue to inspire as they tour across the world through spring of 2019.
More information can be found at Florenceandthemachine.net.