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Florence + The Machine lived up to its high hopes

Florence + The Machine performing

Jacqueline Sumida

Florence + The Machine performing "Queen of Peace".

By Jacqueline Sumida, Downers Grove South High School

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After urgently texting my friends, holding tickets for a half-hour and dropping $300, I finally got to see Florence + The Machine in concert at United Center on Oct. 19. As an avid Florence fan since the 2015 masterpiece “How Big How Blue How Beautiful,” this was the event of a lifetime for me.

We arrived at the United Center an hour before the opening act. As a result, my two friends and I bought some concert shirts before settling into our seats. Luckily for us, we got seats in the first row of the 202 section, so we didn’t have to stand for the entire duration of the concert.

The opening act, Perfume Genius, started a half-hour later than the scheduled start time of 7 pm. Perfume Genius, made up of just one man named Mike Hadreas, defines himself as a “solo performance artist.” Not having listened to any of his work, I didn’t quite know what to expect.

He came on stage and started softly singing in a tenor voice while walking aimlessly around the stage. Occasionally, he would do a tongue click while walking around and would burst out into a short dance break. He gave off major Troye Sivan vibes throughout the entire show, which made me remember the fact that I didn’t get to see Troye Sivan who was at the Chicago Theater on the exact same night.

Overall, Perfume Genius was not my vibe. At the end of his set, he put the microphone down and just walked off stage. This left everyone in the audience wondering what they had just witnessed.

After Perfume Genius, the roadies started to uncover the massive tarps onstage to reveal an entirely wooden setup. It rose three levels to accommodate the seven-piece band. Each level held two musicians, including two drum sets, two pianos, a violin, a bassist, a guitarist and the statement harp.

At around 8:40, the lights shut off and the Machine walked on stage to the sound of everyone cheering. A minute later, Florence Welch appeared barefoot in a yellow dress, walking down toward her microphone to the screaming of every single person in the room. It’s the exact reaction I was expecting.

One of the highlights actually came right at the beginning of the show when Welch sang the opening lyrics, “Woke up in Chicago and the sky turned black,” to the most rapturous screaming of all time. Her voice held the attention of the entire room, and she sounded just like she does on her albums.

It’s not just her voice that draws attention.

Welch cruised through her setlist that consisted mostly of songs from her new album, “High As Hope,” but also old favorites “Ship To Wreck,” “Only If For A Night,” and “Dog Days Are Over.” The Machine really brought it all together, guitarist Rob Ackroyd flowed through every song with grace while pianist Isabella Summers and harpist Tim Monger played beautiful rhythms that entranced the entire room. The band blends really well together and gives a full orchestral sound with only seven people.

For me, Welch’s words between songs resonated more than the songs themselves. She told the audience the stories behind her songs as well as messages of hope, love, forgiveness and toxic masculinity. During “Dog Days Are Over,” she had everyone in the audience hug each other and tell each other they loved each other while she asked for everyone to hold hands during “South London Forever.”

Despite being in the 200 section, Welch’s showmanship really made me feel part of the show. At the start of “Delilah,” she ran an entire lap around the general admission section while making her way to the middle for an intense dance party. Even in her last song, “What Kind Of Man,” she walked on top of the crowd while headbanging and singing her heart out.

After the set ended, the band came back 10 minutes later for an encore of “Big God” and a partial a capella version of “Shake It Out” that left the audience in stitches. As the rest of the band left the stage, Welch jumped down into the audience to sign autographs, take pictures and interact with fans. No other artist I’ve seen would be that appreciative of their fans so as to do that.

Florence + The Machine put on one of the most positive and electric shows I’ve ever seen. Overall, the stage presence and loving atmosphere really made the music come to life. The frantic texts and $300 were definitely worth it.

This story was originally published on Blueprint on October 26, 2018.

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