“This song was written at a time when there were no festivals…there was no dancing. What I’d like to practice with you this evening is a resurrection of dance.”
Amongst the circling bats and towering trees, a roar of noise descends as thousands gather at Adelaide’s Botanic Park / Tainmuntilla. The lights dim, and the Queen of gothic romance appears in her element as she runs onto the stage – Florence Welch and her smartly dressed band have landed.
Florence + The Machine’s Dance Fever tour finally hit Australian shores this week, marking the mid-way point with an appearance at WOMADelaide on Saturday night. The ethereal frontwoman and her band wasted no time warming up the crowd, ripping straight into stomp along Heaven is Here and the powerful independent anthem King.
The light catches on Welch’s crown and custom Gucci dress as she runs back and forth across the stage, periodically jumping off to get closer to her adoring followers in the front row. Fan favourites also litter the set list, as Welch asks the audience to participate in their show ritual and put away phones for Dog Days Are Over. Welch takes the opportunity to speak to the audience as they clap away to the chorus – taking in her surroundings with an air of whimsy, “Look at those trees. They’re beautiful. Hello, people in the trees.”
The London songstress feeds off the crowd’s energy, punching along to the opening drumbeat of What Kind Of Man as a spotlight creates a silhouette in her flowing dress; the lights and stage setting work to uphold the mythical, diaphanous status the singer has built up, her mortality only slipping through as she stops to take a drink of water.
Coming from sold-out arenas across the globe, this festival stage may be slightly smaller than Welch, and the band are used to, however, she takes the opportunity to get up close with her audience as much as possible – a pale raised arm, at times the only part of her visible in the sea of people.
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The band draw upon a vast catalogue throughout the set, running through a quick rendition of Lungs era Kiss With A Fist before moving onto dance-centric My Love from their latest album. Welch encourages the crowd to get in the spirit of the song, which was born out of lockdown blues. “This song was written at a time when there were no festivals…there was no dancing. What I’d like to practice with you this evening is a resurrection of dance.” Welch follows through with the statement as she raises her arms in praise, a spotlight beaming down on her. The singer begins to resemble a music box ballerina, twirling and twirling as a twinkling harp plays her out.
Before leaving the stage for the first time, Welch feeds into the paganism imagery she’s become synonymous with, croaking out spoken word single ‘Restraint’ as she convulses like a woman possessed, flipping her body back and forth with the beat before running off stage.
Florence + The Machine have clearly been busy perfecting their stage show on this tour, with every song perfectly choreographed, while still keeping the audience engaged and on their feet.
Taking to the stage for their final encore, Welch digs deep into the catalogue to bring out fan favourite Shake It Out, amended with a glittering organ intro. Before finishing off with Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up) the singer asks for something in return from the audience, “We’ll only ask one more tiny thing…and that is a few human sacrifices”, encouraging people up on shoulders, as many parents seem only happy to offer their young ones.
With a final bow and wave, Florence + The Machine leave the stage, running off to enchant the next city on the tour schedule.
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