If Joan of Arc were reincarnated today, she could do worse than finding herself in the person of Florence Welch, British rocker and star of Florence & the Machine, who performed at the Bowl last night (10/20/15). With barefoot purity, strong voice, handsome face and flowing red mane, Florence overflowed with charisma and could have led her adoring and mostly female audience happily on a crusade. She beseeched with her hands, expressive and politely tattooed, and flew back and forth across the stage and even into the crowd, with a skipping stride that glided weightlessly. Her slightly Gothic spirituality recalled Stevie Nicks in her prime, especially when she pirouetted, but Florence had more substance, both in body and in song. Her eleven backup singers and musicians were all uniformed in black; with a sky blue blouse and scarf that matched her eyes and a white silk vest suit, Florence stood out even more. She wasn’t just a lead singer; she was the show.
Her songs are heavy and generally avoid easy characterization: chanting, soaring, recitative then thunderous. She hit us with her best new song, Ship to Wreck, early in the set, which ended with her biggest hit, Dog Days Are Over. What Kind of Man was the lead encore. I didn’t know most of the others, but they were easy to follow, as most were anthemic and repeated themselves over and over. Her energy never flagged; she looked more beautiful and more powerful as the night went on and her communion with her fans grew. Like Jackson Browne and unlike Jimmy Buffett, to take two recent examples, you felt you were getting much more in the live performance than was communicated on record. If last night marked the end of my concertgoing for 2015, I can give out awards: Best Songs – Jackson Browne; Best Sound – Lord Huron; Best Performer – Florence Welch.