Have you ever heard a vocalist fill a cavernous arena like Barclays better than the great Florence Welch? My god, what a powerful instrument, and she keeps getting better. This was my sixth time seeing the English siren since her debut album Lungs came out back in 2009. It’s thrilling to see how she’s matured as an artist and hear how well she’s taking care of her money maker.
Winding down her year and a half How Beautiful Tour with two nights in Brooklyn, Florence and opener Grimes delivered emotionally raw performances with two different outcomes. For the warm up act, the eccentric singer-songwriter from north of the border delivered a high-energy performance of songs from her stellar 2016 pop gem, Art Angels. She opened with ‘REALiTi,’ ‘Flesh without Blood’ and ‘Venus Fly,’ which was co-written and co-performed (but not live) with another marvelous eccentric, Janelle Monae. But in her fifth song, ‘World Princess Part II,’ Grimes dashed off stage, followed by her back-up singer, then her dancers. The music stopped abruptly and the house lights came on. Just before that song, she said ‘we just had a really disturbing thing happen to us today, so sorry if my voice is shaking, it’s just kind of a fucked day.’ Following up to see what happened, Brooklyn Vegan reported that a spokesperson for Grimes said ‘unfortunately, I cannot.’ Weirdest thing I’ve ever seen at a show before, but the good news is that I’ve heard she’s doing ok.
Given Grimes’ truncated setlist, it enabled Florence to get started 30 minutes earlier than scheduled. Her set hearkened back to the days of big bands, velvet curtains and shimmering metallic backdrops. Bewitched and beguiling, she appeared wearing a striking indigo chiffon dress that billowed as she sprinted, jumped and collapsed throughout the show and it perfectly accentuated her Stevie Nicks-inspired twirls. Opening with ‘What the Water Gave Me’ and ‘Ship to Wreck,’ which always reminds me of a vintage Cher song, her entire set list was simply perfect, spanning all three studio albums and featuring old favorites like ‘Cosmic Love’ to new favorites from her latest album like ‘Queen of Peace.’
Every song was a highlight, but these stood out most: 1) a stripped down version of her Calvin Harris hit ‘Sweet Nothing,’ 2) her request for one song sans cell phones to live in the moment with ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful,’ 3) an almost-acoustic showcase of her insane voice on ‘Various Storms & Saints,’ a song she’s just recently started performing, and 4) her breathtaking channeling of Janis Joplin on ‘Mother.’
And then she really got me. Walking center stage carrying a rainbow flag just four days after the horrible massacre in Orlando, she performed ‘Spectrum’ with an oh-so poignant chorus, ‘Say my name, and every color illuminates. We are shining, and we will never be afraid again.’ Don’t let me post the verses because I won’t stop crying. She implored all of us to love more, to hug the people around us, and to leave this place with love before launching into ‘You’ve Got The Love.’ Thank you, Florence, for your warmth, your songs, your love.