FLORENCE AND THE MACHINE + KAMASI WASHINGTON @ THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL
The central theme of Tuesday night’s Florence + The Machine show — the first of two nights at the Hollywood Bowl — seemed to be love. It was an emotion felt between the performers and their fans, between people and the universe (cue Florence + The Machine’s “Cosmic Love”), and among all of humankind: “Diversity is not something to be tolerated. It’s something to be celebrated,” special guest Kamasi Washington declared during his opening set. Considering the complexity of the world today — “My heart hurts a lot at the moment,” singer Florence Welch admitted — the concert’s ethereal and loving atmosphere was a welcome relief.
L.A. native Washington, on tour in support of new album Heaven and Earth, warmed up the night with an especially magnetic performance, featuring a large band of musicians that included five drummers, trumpet player Maurice Brown, singer Patrice Quinn, and his multi-instrumentalist father, Rickey. Even those who were unfamiliar with his music were engrossed with the set. Full of positive energy, Washington affectionately said, “I’m blessed to play places like this and meet people like you.” And then, fitting with the theme of the night, he added, “We love you, L.A.”
When Florence + The Machine took the stage, we greeted the band with loud, excited cheers. Barefoot and wearing a flowing, floor-length sheer gown, Welch bounded onstage. The set immediately began with tracks from new album High as Hope — “June” and “Hunger” — before segueing to such earlier songs as “Between Two Lungs.” Welch remained an impressive sight throughout, as she danced across the entire stage, twirled around like a ballerina, and ran from the back of the stage to the front. That energy was constant — during “Delilah,” she ran up to the middle section of the Bowl; during “What Kind of Man,” she dropped down into the pit. Her energy was contagious, as those in the pit continuously jumped along to the music. During “Only if for Tonight,” Welch asked, “Are you going to dance with us, L.A.?” Pointing to those seated, she announced, “That means all of you sitting down will need to stand up!” We all enthusiastically obeyed, rising from our seats to dance along … and remaining on our feet.
For High as Hope track “South London Forever,” Welch took some time to explain its origins. “It’s actually about the place that I’m from, which is South London. It’s about some particularly messy early teens to pretty late 20s. … If you’re in that, if it’s still messy, I’m with you. I believe in you.” We cheered, as Welch conceded, “It’s not totally unmessy once you get out of it. It’s just kind of different.” She continued: “But I just want to say that I really believe in love. And I really believe that a revolution in consciousness starts with individuals. But hope requires action and don’t ever stop doing good in the small ways that you can, even if you feel like it won’t make a difference, even if you feel like it doesn’t matter. It does.” Welch then encouraged us to hold hands in a moment of “collective consciousness.”
It was during Florence + The Machine’s biggest hit, “Dog Days Are Over,” when the loving spirit really took hold. As the band softly began to play the beginning of the song, Welch instructed us to “embrace each other. Tell each other that you love each other! Tell a stranger that you love them, because I promise you, on some cosmic level, you do, you definitely do.” She then said — after we put away our smartphones — to “think of something you want to let go of, think of something you want to release, think of love you want to send somewhere. I want you to collect that. And when I say, ‘Run,’ I want you to jump as high and as long as you can and send it upwards. And this is your moment. We will not share it. This is here, this is now, this is yours.” It was an emotional moment, as we gave serious consideration to these thoughts, but also one of jubilance, with the sight of thousands of people jumping in the air together.
For the encore, we were given a special treat: “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful.” Welch said, “We haven’t been playing this song on this tour. But this was the place that inspired this song, because the Hollywood Bowl started a slightly disastrous love story, but a love story nonetheless.” The explanation made the opening lines of the song — “Between a crucifix and the Hollywood sign, we decided to get hurt. Now there’s a few things we have to burn, set our hearts ablaze” — even more poignant.
As the night neared its conclusion, Welch thanked the new fans as well as those who have been with them since debut album Lungs. “Thank you so much to everyone who’s been with us for the last nearly 10 years. Thank you for keeping these songs and these feelings so safe.” She added with a laugh, “I know that they’re a lot.” Those feelings, particularly that of love, were clearly felt tonight among her longtime fans, who will keep the experience of this concert with them as well.
Between Two Lungs
Only if for a Night
Queen of Peace
South London Forever
Dog Days Are Over
Ship to Wreck
The End of Love
What Kind of Man
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful
Shake It Out