Fostering a closer relationship with my family is a priority as I get older; and, for months my sister has invited me to visit her in Denver. Knowing my love of live music, she sweetened the pot with the suggestion to catch a show at Red Rocks Amphitheater. It’s a venue I’ve never visited, but one that I’ve longed to experience ever since I listened to the 1983 U2 Under the Red Blood Sky live album. Then she suggested Florence + the Machine. The bewitching Brit in a breathtaking venue made for her? Why yes, and the clincher? Androgynous French phenom Christine and the Queens opening for her. You can bet ‘5 Dollars’ I secured 10th row seats on Stubhub and booked a cheap flight on Delta in no time.
Seeing both Queens and Machines in one evening makes me appreciate my health. In early October, I was supposed to see Florence on my 48th birthday at the Barclays Center. Instead, I was at Mount Sinai West with a ruptured appendix. Two hospital stays, one abscess and invasive surgery later, three weeks off work, and 22 pounds lighter, I re-emerged to see Christine at Brooklyn Steel on Halloween. It was an incredible show despite my discomfort and depleted energy sitting in the ADA section. Now fully recovered, all 22 pounds back on, 13 weeks sober, and capping off a great visit with my sister, this evening symbolically put me back on the right track.
It’s May 21, it’s almost below freezing, and it’s snowing. Welcome to Colorado. Warming me up figuratively and literally is the wonderful Héloïse. As an opener for Florence, she’s allowed no set, no live band, just six dancers, a smoke machine and her big voice. It’s wonderfully effective. She got things rolling with ‘Girlfriend’ off her sublime 2018 album Chris, and her best-known single ‘Tilted’ from her debut album from four years ago.
‘Damn (what a woman must do)’ channeled her defiance and anger toward American politicians for attempting to control a woman’s right to choose. ‘5 dollars’ is still the most unique and hooky song on Chris, and I get mesmerized watching the choreography of the dancers around her. She closed with one of my favorite tracks, ‘Saint Claude,’ which speaks to one of the most enduring traumas in my life: loneliness – a lifelong struggle with shame and feeling alone in the world (cue any Brene Brown Ted Talk). Vulnerability is strength. Music is connectivity, and certain songs (even in French) have the power to unite us as collective souls as we’re all navigating the same highs and lows of the human condition.
Check out the full Brooklyn Bowl setlist from October. As an opening act for Florence, this was truncated to about 9-11 songs.