sun 18/08/2019

Florence + the Machine, BST Hyde Park review - mastering the matriarchy | reviews, news & interviews

Florence + the Machine, BST Hyde Park review - mastering the matriarchy

Florence + the Machine, BST Hyde Park review - mastering the matriarchy

Florence Welch delivers the perfect set for London's biggest summer festival

Florence, enjoying a collective experienceDavid J Hogan

It’s a rare thing that musicians sound better live than they do on Spotify. But Florence Welch sings a note perfect set – even when jumping up and down like a pogo stick, whirling and spinning, or sprinting along the front of the stage to meet fans.

Shining with androgynous, enigmatic beauty, she opens with the dramatic “June”, the line “hold on to each other” sung with gravitas as she stands on a tree-cloaked stage beneath the open sky. It’s a message that resonates from the onset – you can feel it, the connection with her hometown audience – the same way Flo seems to be feeling the crowd respond to the gesture of her arm, like a swaying, musical Mexican wave.

In “Hunger” – one of her newest songs, which nestles amongst a set of her greatest hits like “Rabbit Heart” and “Kiss With A Fist” she reaches out, smiling to her audience and sings that perfectly poetic line “you made a fool of death with your beauty” before wafting around the stage like Isadora Duncan, dancing in a floor length signature billowing gown of yellow and green to a backdrop of videoscapes of the sea, verdant grassy fields, plants, hands, fabric, skin – all sun saturated, ambient hued.

Florence and the MachineBetween tracks the singer seems overwhelmed, as if she might cry with happiness. She references gratitude at being here, 10 years on coming from playing the Old Blue Last and Camden every week. Her voice is as soft as those silken sleeves – sweetly and tenderly she keeps telling the crowd she loves them, claiming she’s not very good at speaking between songs, but she does have some important things to say: Like the fact that this festival is 70% women. She quips: “Welcome to the matriarchy. It’s fun. This festival was bought together by women. Maybe we should do this in other places?”

Referencing her idol Patti Smith, she sings “Patricia”, with a strength that belies such tenderness. The lines “it’s such a wonderful thing to love” sees the audience clapping rhythmically, carrying the bass and pace before Flo asks the audience to do something that makes us feel weird and vulnerable – to put our phones away. She does a very British impression of “just trying to have a collective experience” before saying it how (she thinks) the Queen would, yelling “put your fucking phones away!” which gets everyone all excitable and jumping up and down to “Dog Days”. “Jenny of Old Stones”, dedicated to Arya Stark, brings it back to a delicate, haunting place as the breeze begins to cool and the moon starts to glow over the forest-like stage.

Petals burn on the audio-visual screen; we see a close-up of grapefruit flesh being squeezed and torn apart as “Big God” becomes the first echoey and ethereal encore. Then comes Flo’s last request as she asks the crowd to “be our choir”; a sentiment that needs no encouraging as almost everyone in Hyde Park lets rip with “Shake It Out”, as if living the lyrics of “dancing with the devil on your back” before we drift off into the night, into the moments of darkness before the dawn, lamenting that this will be Florence and the Machine's last London show for a little while.

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