Florence + the Machine at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 7/25/12 (photos and review)By Cassandra Schoon | July 26th, 2012 | No Comments »
So many vocalists sing from such a dark place, their voices cracked and wavering over lyrics of lost love and intense heartbreak. Not true for Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine, whose performance at Red Rocks Wednesday night seemed to be distilled from pure joy. A pre-Raphaelite goofball for the majority of the evening, she bounded barefoot across the stage, dirtied the hem of her flowing evening dress, and alternately emitted implausibly-sustained high notes and unexpected belly laughs. And even though Welch and her band acknowledged that they were playing to a crowd recently touched by tragedy, the core spirit of the songs, the performance, and the evening was one of unflinching hope.
Amid gusty weather, openers the Walkmen played an incredibly loud yet emotive set, which included a few of their older, fuzzier selections like “The Rat” as well as a generous helping of newer hits like “Heaven.” Joined by bassist Skyler Skjelset of Fleet Foxes, the Walkmen proved a phenomenal opener, despite occasional acoustic fluctuations due to the blustery winds.
The wind had mercifully died down before Florence + the Machine began their set with “Only If For a Night,” which received an unashamedly enthusiastic welcome from the sold-out crowd. It was immediately apparent that Welch could get away with backing her spectacular vocals with even a mediocre band, but with strong backup singers, bold yet calculated percussionists and Isabella “The Machine” Summers’ impassioned keys, the effect was almost overwhelming. Between the band and the venue, and that unmistakable voice, songs like “What the Water Gave Me” took on anthemic proportions.
Welch acknowledged the Aurora tragedies briefly with the song “Breaking Down” and later with a moving moment of silence before launching into the poignant “Never Let Me Go.“ These were welcome (and probably somewhat obligatory) gestures, but they were exceptions to the show’s overwhelmingly joyful mood. Welch’s broad grin, cheerful invitations for venue-wide dance competitions and chatter about Denver’s vintage jewelry shops and bars were a welcome ray of light after a tough week in the Mile High City. It’s really like Florence knew what we all needed: a beautiful night together under the stars, and a chance to shake it out.
Cassandra Schoon is a Denver freelance writer and regular Reverb contributor.
Glenn Ross is a Denver-based photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his work here.