On Thursday, Oct. 6, the Spectrum Center became a center of spiritual and vulnerable experience. Billie Eilish and Florence and the Machine both brought such powerful and vulnerable energy to the stage that one couldn’t help but be enchanted. When I knew I was attending a Florence and the Machine concert, I knew I was going to have a unique experience, but I was not aware of how incredible that experience would be.
Billie Eilish started the show with electrifying dancing and an all-encompassing stage presence. The 16-year-old singer sang her hits like “bellyache,” “my boy,” and her duet with Khalid, “lovely.” She also performed her “Hotline Bling” remix on a ukelele, which was my personal favorite song in her set. Before singing “idontwannabeyouanymore,” she asked, “Who here hates themselves?” People raised their hands, and she said, “This one’s for you.” Her music surely speaks to the insecure and depressed, just like some of Florence and the Machine’s music. Eilish was definitely an excellent choice for an opener for Florence and the Machine because her music isn’t so similar that it would feel like you’re hearing the same music for two straight hours, but it’s not so different that it isn’t a good match. Eilish really set the tone for the show with her dancing and her energy.
When Florence came to the stage, all hell broke loose. How could it not with a literal angel walking onto the stage? They began simply, with Florence Welch at the mic stand singing a hit off their newest album, “June.” Her voice was immaculate. They then performed a fan favorite from the “High As Hope” album, which was “Hunger.” With that song, Florence Welch set the tone for the rest of the show. The song is very vulnerable and open, and at the chorus of the song, so was Welch’s dancing. I didn’t expect the amount of dancing I saw at this concert. If a song could be twirled to, Welch twirled. If a song could make your hips move, her hips were moving. The amount of passion and power in her dancing was key in her performance.
After their third song in their set, which was “Between Two Lungs,” Welch took a minute to introduce the band, as most bands do. She then requested that everyone dance with her on the next song (that would be a theme). She was constantly requesting things and interacting with the audience.
On the next song, “Queen of Peace,” which is from their album “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful,” she danced so much that you couldn’t help but dance with her. The song has a royal sound to it and a good dancing beat that just makes you want to move — and move we did. She made all of the people in the front jump to the beat, and if you stopped, she insisted that you keep jumping. She was truly paying attention to her audience and interacting with them and their experience.
After “Queen of Peace,” the band stopped playing and Welch began speaking about the next song and what it means to her. The next song was about her time growing up in South London and how difficult and unique her early teens and late 20s were. She reassured people in the audience within that age range that it will be okay. She also subtly discussed all that’s happening in the world politically and culturally. She never explicitly said that’s what she was referring to, but it was clear in her tone and her words. She explained that she was happy to be in a place full of love because lately, her heart “feels like it’s being squeezed every day.” She then led into words of hope, stating “but a revolution of consciousness begins with individuals! And hope is an action, so keep hoping and doing small things. You may not think the small things you do make a difference, but they do.” She was urging people to continue to hope and do the small things that make a difference. Then, she asked that everyone hold hands during the song “South London Forever,” which has a line about holding hands with someone that you just met and it not getting better than that. The song amplifies youth and freedom, and she really made us feel that in our souls.
Before their song “Patricia,” which is about Patti Smith, Welch explained that it’s about being a powerful woman and how Smith was her North Star in doing so. She also explained that there’s a bit in the middle of the song about toxic masculinity, and then stated, “but I feel like there’s very little toxic masculinity at a Florence and the Machine concert, I feel like if you’re here you support women, so thank you!”
Welch continued to make the concert more than just a concert, but an experience. During their hit “Dog Days Are Over,” at the bridge of the song, the band stopped and she said, “I’m going to ask you all to do something a little weird and vulnerable.” She requested that everyone in the venue put their phones down. She asked that everyone enforce the rule and if we saw anyone on their phone, to politely, “in the British way,” ask them to put it away. She then asked us to reach up. At the start of the bridge, where she says “run,” we were all supposed to jump. She said to let go of any stress or anything holding us back through our fingertips. She explained that this was a safe space and would stay in that venue, and you couldn’t help but trust her.
After that impactful performance, she asked us all to tell everyone next to us that we love them. She promised that we do.
There was not one song in their setlist that wasn’t full of passion and power. She sang more hits like “Ship to Wreck” and “Cosmic Love.” She danced powerfully through each and every one of them.
They finished their setlist (excluding the encore, of course) with her most rock ’n’ roll sounding songs: “Delilah” and “What Kind of Man.” During “Delilah,” Welch ran off the stage and into the General Admission area. She was there for about half of the song, and my only criticism with that is that we didn’t know where she was and the camera couldn’t see her during that time. She returned right before the start of “What Kind of Man.” During most of that song, she walked in front of the stage, holding hands with fans and singing to them.
She waved. The band bowed. They pretended that was the end.
The band came back for an encore and the audience screamed. She walked up to the mic stand and sang “Big God,” a powerful hit off the “High As Hope” album as confetti fell. Not for 10 seconds like confetti usually falls at concerts, but for two straight songs. For their two encore songs, it was raining orange sparkly confetti. Their second encore song was their biggest hit, “Shake it Out,” and she requested that we be her choir for that one. We definitely were. There wasn’t a single person there that wasn’t singing their hearts out.
Ultimately, Welch made the space safe, intimate and full of passion. The band played beautifully and the stage looked amazing, but her energy really drove the show. Her energy definitely drove the show in the right direction. Her balance between peace and passion throughout definitely earned her the title of “Queen of Peace” in my book.