Drama is coded into the DNA of Florence and the Machine. In honor of the Halloween weekend, the band members wore skeleton face paint for their headlining appearance at Voodoo Friday night in City Park. Although it’s unlikely that singer Florence Welch regularly wears black eye shadow that heavy, she knew how to make her eyes pierce through the blackness.
That was Welch at her most subtle, a mode she rarely employed. Shoeless in a raspberry pant suit, she ran, skipped, spun and bounced around the stage, reaching for the audience, the heavens, and the bowels of hell. Her passions are as grand as her songs. “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful,” for example, was inspired by a moment while on another American tour when she realized that she could be in love with everyone and everything. “I hope that happens for you,” she explained. “I’ve brought it home.”
The drama is distinctly British—epic in scale, perhaps a result of growing up in a country that cherished the equally grand rock band Queen. Like Queen, Florence and the Machine have an element of self-consciousness artfulness, with horns, strings, and a harp among the instruments. The encore of “What Kind of Man” was raw, pounding rock ’n’ roll, though, and it left Welch crawling on the stage.
That drama led to a few awkward moments such as an interpretive dancing section that concluded one song, but those over the top touches were balanced by her riveting presence and a few enthusiastic dashes down the runway to the soundboard, where she took a moment to commune with the fans. During “Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up),” she gave a crown of flowers she was wearing to a girl in the audience.
All the drama would mean little if the songs weren’t worthy of Welch’s passion, but there weren’t more than a couple of casual moments during the two-hour set. She included “Sweet Nothing,” the song she sang for British producer Calvin Harris, but from the high impact opening of “What the Water Gave Me” and “Ship to Wreck,” Welch, her songs, and her big feelings were the stars.