Concert Reviews

Florence and the Machine at Red Rocks, 7/25/12


See Also: The Walkmen's Peter Bauer: "Skrillex makes me feel like I don't understand what's happening"

Funneled through the slight, almost frail body of its pale owner, Florence Welch's voice cuts through the silence to fill the spaces between lyrics. And last night, in front of a breathing-room only crowd under the stars at Red Rocks, that voice attempted to bring meaning to misery. For about three minutes, Welch stopped using it. During a pre-encore moment of silence for the victims of the Aurora shooting, Welch instead bowed her fiery mane, closed her eyes and stood in complete silence as a few of her fans burst into tears. Last night, Welch's most powerful note was an implied one.

Earlier, backed by low lights, lead singer Welch entered the stage in profile dressed like a Wild West bride in a stunning off-white gown that allowed her to strut like Jessica Rabbit. Behind her, two more demure but dexterous back-up singers tucked into little black dresses cooed along with her yelps and yawls. The overall effect of the staging struck chords both subdued and surreal as Welch bent her powerhouse voice into "Only If For A Night."

Slide show: Florence + the Machine at Red Rocks

Earlier this month, though, that voice was straining, not soaring. After Welch sustained a vocal cord injury two weeks ago, she canceled a handful of dates to allow it a week of rest. "For a second there in Brighton it looked like I might not be touring at all," Welch admitted to the crowd. "To be here and singing for you is fantastic."

Both Florence and the Machine and their predecessor onstage, the Walkmen, reveled in the sound potential provided by the venue and its surroundings. Dressed dapper in coordinated suits, the New York-bred indie band played a triumphant opening set comprised largely of its fastest, least forgettable songs. Material from Heaven, which dropped less than two months ago, took on an expansive early life as lead singer Hamilton Leithauser growled earnestly across the band's second ever Red Rocks show. (To read more about their first - and their intimate new record - check out our interview with organist Peter Bauer.)

The Walkmen's earnest, ambitious set flowed expertly into Florence and the Machine's high drama. With the grace of a ballet dancer, Welch contorted her deep, brassy delivery and her lithe figure across the most triumphant hits from both Lungs and Ceremonials. Through "What The Water Gave Me," she stretched her arms like a wind-up ballerina toward the stars before building the set's tension and her wingspan through "Cosmic Love" and letting it boil over and spill out in "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)."

Welch's powerful expression has little to do with her face, which moved only slightly as she called through the night, instead allowing her body to twist, twirl and occasionally sprint through its emotion. Behind her, a fan blew languorously on the train of her dress and the curls framing her face. Welch falls somewhere between this generation's Fiona Apple and its Stevie Nicks. Perhaps it is enough that she is its Florence Welch.

Slide show: Florence + the Machine at Red Rocks

Re-visited in the literal and metaphorical dark of current-day Colorado, the thirteen songs Florence and the Machine selected felt expertly arranged for full stadium sound. Despite relying heavily on the harp, the agile instrumentation of songs such as "Heartlines" and "Seven Devils" inspired mass dancing and heavy panting in a consistently breathless crowd. "We encourage all dance moves," Welch told her audience, "especially the unchoreographed spontaneous ones."

It was fitting then, that, after inspiring so much in her crowd, Welch returned the favor, skipping back onto the stage for the night's emotional moment of silence before launching painfully poignant versions of "Never Let Me Go" and "No Light No Light." In the second and final song of the encore, Florence stretched lyrics such as "You can't choose what stays and what fades away" across sound and sentiment as the audience joined in: clap-clap-pause-clap, clap-clap-pause-clap, clap-clap-pause-clap. As Welch narrated the song's end, fans with tears on their cheeks watched her blow a kiss and press the empty air to her heart.

Slide show: Florence + the Machine at Red Rocks


Personal Bias: I saw her almost exactly a year ago in St. Louis and thought she couldn't get better. Turns out I was wrong.

By the Way: During the moment of silence, a female fan near the front shouted across the expanse of Red Rocks: "WE WILL NEVER FORGET."

Random Detail: I probably won't ever forget her saying that.


Florence and the Machine Red Rocks - 7/25/12 Morrison, CO

01. "Only If For the Night" 02. "What the Water Gave Me" 03. "Cosmic Love" 04. "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)" 05. "Spectrum" 06. "Breaking Down" 07. "Heartlines" 08. "Leave My Body" 09. "Seven Devils" 10. "Shake It Out" 11. "Dog Days Are Over"


12. "Never Let Me Go" 13. "No Light No Light"

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Kelsey Whipple
Contact: Kelsey Whipple