how big, how blue, how beautiful indeed!

Photo by Daniel Boud

Photo by Daniel Boud

Florence + The Machine @ The Domain, Sydney NSW Australia 26/01/2019 written by Brendan Lewis.

Today, is an emotional day for a lot of Australians. Hunger for justice that our nation is still yet to fully achieve, or perhaps wondering what kind of man, or woman for that matter, leads genaside upon a nation, or maybe questioning whether we as a nation, built this ship to wreck? Luckily though, there’s a growing acceptance of everyone all across the spectrum. Whether you truly believe the dog days are over and choose to celebrate this day or not, emotions are not in moderation tonight! Especially because tonight, it’s time to settle our differences with one another, shake it out if you will, and unite our emotions as we witness the grace of UK contemporary indie-pop queen of peace and her band, Florence + The Machine fill the sky full of song here tonight on the bands’ ‘High As Hope’ world tour.

Only if for a night, let music guide our emotions…

The suspenseful excitement in the crowd is emphasised, with the eerie opening track off the band’s latest album ‘High As Hope’, titled ‘June’ as the band walk out onto the stage. A sudden outburst of joy emerges from the audience as Florence emerges, in time for the seamless flow into song #2, ‘Hunger’, and the debut of Florence’s voice! Florence’s vocals are soft and nurturing to the ears that behold its beauty in every quivering strand, flowing straight from the soul, before… If you’re familiar with this song, you’re no-doubt aware of its comparatively climactic chorus with vocals of candid emotional power, atop vastly more dynamic instrumentation. Well, although this is the opening song of the evening for Florence’s voice, they need no time to warm up and hit the mark brilliantly straight up!

The next three songs that follow, ‘Between Two Lungs’, ‘Only If For A Night’ and ‘Queen Of Peace’, all maintain impressive vocal precision and send nicely contrasting emotions into the crowd from song to song. ‘Between Two Lungs’ fill us with sweet, light vocal bubbles, floating amidst a rhythmic pulse, whereas ‘Only If For A Nights’ radiates a warmer sense of seriousness in its tone, driving mesmerizing piano shimmers and soaring vocals that reach out to us and leave us all captivated. A soft, sweet and shy voice floats gently from the stage, “hello Sydney”..... Hang on, was that Florence?! It seems quite foreign to the strong, powerful soaring melodies we’ve been hearing! A calming sweet string serenity welcomes the sequential thumping drum beat and leading piano rhythm of ‘Queen Of Peace’ now. Florence’s vocals of candid power and confidence in the chorus, shoots a rush of excitement into the audience, entranced in a dream-state of dance-provoking drums with Florence’s stunning vocals. The excitement is heightened, as Florence moves around the stage while connecting her gaze with her audience members (I gather by the rush of cheers flowing from side to side). Hmmmm, I can’t help but feel like there’s something subtle yet crucial musically in the chorus of this song that seems to be missing, leaving an empty space in the rich fullness of this song as I know it. Still, Florence and her band have proven so far that they are truly a dynamic musical force to be reckoned with, and any minor shortfalls will go unnoticed or at least won’t draw ones focus….. Unless you’re an incredibly analytic journalist.

“Florence’s vocals are great yes, but are you sure you’re not just sensationalising them Brendan? I mean a lot of female singers have powerful voices”. I’m glad you ask! It’s one thing for a singer to hit a powerful note, but to sustain it with such well-controlled vibrato and quickly change from low to high to mid range, stretching their vocal chords back and forth like an accordian whilst maintaining such brilliantly control over their vocals is nothing short of amazing, and requires recognition! Just like enjoying a 5-star meal poses quite tricky without both a knife and forlk, I’m only able to fully appreciate this stunning display of vocal technique thanks to the sound mixer doing justice to the sounds. Each sound from the band from song to song so far, has been complementive to one another, and highlights focus sounds such as a piano melody, synth layers, harp plucking, bass rhythm etc, if required, whilst still bringing Florence’s vocals to the forefront of one's attention. I’m actually pleasantly surprised at this, as the setting here tonight, is a vast open field, surrounded by trees and buildings, so working with the acoustics at hand would seem more of a challenge! But still, up the front here and near the back where my +1 is seated, the sound is without fault!

As the show progresses, Florence speaks to the crowd between songs, more confidently and more recognizably to her singing voice, and shows great showmanship by acknowledging the mixed emotions of Australia day and sparks a uniting flame of hope and peace amongst the audience, with uplifting inspirational chats that sets alight a beaming energy perfectly fitting for the feel of the next song, ‘South London Forever’ and the rest of the show that follows. The bright fun-filled aromatic energy exerted from both Florence’s vocals and the band in this song , provokes a slightly-too feminine wiggle that I’m honestly not proud of, but is out of my control thanks to the feel-good essense and swinging beat. With the way Florence is conducting and controlling the flowing moods and emotions tonight, captivating, hypnotising, mesmerising, enchanting, joy, excitement, suspense, intrigue, delight, content, I’m starting to think she’s some kind of angelic sorceress! I mean, the darker, seamingly withheld furry in the tone of ‘Patricia’ with Florence’s quivering voice, and stunning vocal high’s that are impressive even for a female, definitely leaves me captivated and full of intrigue. In ‘Dog Days Are Over’ (which the crowd start singing before Florence gets a chance to), the way Florence so easily and suitably  builds up the energy in the bridge section,, imploring the crowd to all jump and sing together for the last chorus, is sensational and seriously, the energy around me of the better part of 21,000 fans all jumping and singing in-sync with one another is incredible!

Now we’re really getting to the good stuff!

Florence further proves how she’s constantly connected with her fans by instantly noticing someone near the front of the crowd, who iwasn’t feeling well, and makesde sure she iswas alright and urgesd the audience to stay hydrated and asks the security for water for the crowd, which her act of thoughtfulness warms the heart of us all!

As the show draws closer to its finish, of course we are treated with fan-favourites like the anthemic hook-filled hit ‘Ship To Wreck’, sending an instant surge of static ecstasy through the audience, even more-so as Florence steps off the stage to race around the front barrier while fans try desperately to make psychical contact with her. As well as the lustful cheekiness with sing along provoking melodies, in ‘Delilah’ in which Florence again races around the front barrier, spiking the energy hype sky-high, and the ferocious bite of power in ‘What Kind Of Man’.

Such an inspiring, connecting, brilliantly performed show needs no encore, but we’re lucky enough for one anyway!  This encore consists of new single only released earlier today, ‘Moderation’, ‘Big God’ and fan-favourite, ‘Shake It Out’. ‘Moderation’ sparks a dark tone with attention demanding piano strikes and temptrous vocals that send a wicked delight over the audience. That delight is exploded, as Florence again steps off the stage, but this time, she gets a little closer to her fans as she hoists herself up and sits on the barrier next to me and leans forward to sing to a select few of very lucky fans, me included. One other amazing attention to detail from Florence, is she put her hand on my shoulder when it was my turn to be sung to, as she realised I’m blind and would likely need a sign such as this, to make me aware that it’s me she’s singing to……. Seeing the sign, ‘Drum Stick 4 Blind Guy Plz?!’ may have given the blind aspect away, but still, you’d be surprised how uncommon it is for someone to show these subtle gestures that mean a lot! Now, after Florence thanks us one more time and encourages us all to come together and sing as loud as we can for this one, ‘Shake It Out’ featuring a mist of twinkling glitter floating above the crowd is a truly momentous way to end this emotional rollercoaster, and sends euphoric tingles throughout my entire body, as a choir of the band and 21,000 fans singing along, fills the open night sky!