Florence + The Machine at Centre Bell, May 28th 2019

Florence + the Machine returned to Montreal once again and brought their unique sound and the incredible vocal stylings of lead singer Florence Welch. While the Bell Centre may not have been as full as the last time they came to town, the air was electric and the crowd was ready to give it their all; we all knew Welch was about to put on a fantastic show. 

The year long High as Hope Tour actually debuted at Osheaga last summer, and has slowly made its way around the entire globe. The new album, featuring a more stripped back sound and more personal lyrics, has Welch credited as a producer for the first time. It features many slow ballads, covering themes of lost love, personal struggles, and even a bad high. The 19-song set was able to feature a majority of  the album without hampering the danceable and fun energy of a Florence + the Machine show.

The night at the Bell Centre began with lesser known, but highly credited, English music producer Blood Orange (aka Devonté Hynes ). It started off with just him and his guitar, and as Orange slowly made his way to the keys, a structure was revealed and he was joined by a four piece band. Bringing out a different featured artist for each subsequent track, Blood Orange’s acoustic pop/funk was enjoyable and got the crowd listening, albeit not that enthused. 

After an approximate half hour set, they thanked the crowd, and the crew quickly started removing the lights and equipment at the front and unveiling Florence’s set design. A multi-level wood structure was uncovered, with distinct spaces for Welch’s eight piece band, and the back had high curved walls made out of the same wooden slats. The effect of the woodwork and lights peeking through the slats gave it the feeling of us being in a classical music hall.

As the show starts, the lights drop,. The band start to go to their places as they light up one by one. The band consists of Isabella Summers on keys, Robert Ackroyd on lead guitar, Tom Monger starting off on Harp, Cyrus Bayandor on bass, Aku Orraca-Tetteh over on percussion and backing vocals, Dionne Douglas on violin, Hazel Mills also on keys and backing vocals, and Loren Humphrey on drums. They begin to play June off of the new album and the spotlight pans across the stage as Welch appears with her hair down, adorned in her typical simple flowy pink dress/jumpsuit. Barefoot and twirling around the stage, June sounds amazing and as the final notes hit, it quickly transitions into the powerful "Hunger" which has the crowd clapping along.

Welch dives into her back catalogue for a few tracks, inviting the crowd (and those in the bleachers) to stand and dance during "Queen of Piece." “It’s just arms and wiggling; imagine you’re all just lanky trees” Welch said, demonstrating her moves, clearly not shy to show her goofy side. Though after "Saint London Forever," she is emotional and overcome by the loud cheers and long applause. She laughs the moment off with a bit of self-deprecating humor about how “us brits, we are not good with praise” 

Throughout the rest of the set, curtains frequently drop from the scaffolding above the stage, giving the effect of sails on pirate ship, or clouds in the sky, depending on the lighting. "Patricia," the Patti Smith tribute was excellent, and "Dog Days" had the whole entire GA crowd jumping along with Welch. As the first notes of "Ship to Wreck" began, the lights lit up the crowd, “do you guys trust me” Welch asked, “then put away your phones, and tap your neighbours to do so also”. 

Welch wasn’t afraid to interact and chat with members of her crowd directly. When this would happen, the rest of the arena would become more silent than I've ever heard; it really didn’t feel like we were at the Bell Centre. A few more tracks including "100 years" and "The End of Love" from High as Hope, led us to the climax of the evening, as Welch ran along the side of the rink to the tech booth, hopped up on the barrier, and used her fans as support. As the song ended, Welch danced through the crowd all the way back through the pit, ending the show with "What Kind of Man."

A few minutes later, the band started coming back to huge cheers. Welch performed her last two songs of the night from High as Hope, and ended the show on a happy note, with "Shake It Out," 2011’s cathartic lead single from Ceremonials. Florence + the Machine have still got it. They haven’t felt the pressure to reinvent themselves every few years, and while it might not sell the most tickets, the music and concert experience is timeless and I don’t see them going anywhere anytime soon.