There are some concerts that are so important within your own world and your own frame of being that it feels like every single moment you live and breathe is leading up to that gig. Days get crossed off a calendar, money gets saved up to buy t-shirts and posters, and plans get made to line up and to get there and to get home. And, if you’re me, dreams and wild fantasies get created within your mind about the possibilities of the show. (Example – What if I meet them and they write something for me to get tattooed? What if I get pulled up on stage and I get to dance with this very important person? Etc., etc.)
This year, and for a couple other years in the past, Florence + the Machine have been that show for me. This time around it was even more important, because the band was a driving force in me picking myself up off the ground and plowing forward at full speed after someone important to me decided I was no longer needed in their life. Their records renewed me and breathed life into my lungs, and for that I am endlessly grateful. A lot of me feels like Florence somehow lives in my brain and conjures up songs that feel like stories from my own existence or melodies that speak directly to my soul when I need them the most. And concerts when you get to see those tracks performed live right in front of you are some of the most important concerts you’ll ever get to experience.
Somehow, my friend Brittany is an actual concert goddess and managed to get us general admission floor tickets for this show, and out of eagerness and sheer determination, we wound up standing in the second row at the centre of the stage. Of Monsters and Men graced us for an hour of Icelandic goodness, and despite the fact that I was antsy and more than ready for Florence to drape my soul in her voice, I thoroughly enjoyed their set. The band knows how to work a crowd, and there was a moment as they played “King and Lionheart” when I felt the freedom that comes along with a good show begin to creep into my skin. And that’s one of my favourite feelings.
Half an hour after the opener ended their set, the band – minus their frontwoman – walked on stage to screams of adoration and joy. Then, after thirty seconds that felt more like thirty years, the ethereal being that is Florence Welch tiptoed barefoot to her mic stand, tossing roses and hydrangeas into the crowd as she went. I felt a little bit like I was going to die or faint or that my heart would become so full and swell so big that it would explode straight out of my chest and be catapulted onto the stage. Before I could do any of that, though, the opening notes of “What the Water Gave Me” drifted through the speakers, and Florence lifted me so high I felt like I was flying, and I don’t think my feet touched the ground until long after the set ended.
Florence + the Machine plowed straight into huge tracks, playing them with such passion and intensity that I began to question how they manage to do it every night for weeks on end. “Ship to Wreck” turned into “Rabbit Heart,” and within the span of a few minutes, I was holding back tears and fighting to close my mouth just a little bit because I was smiling so big. There’s a large, potent dose of magic within that band, and to be in their presence and to witness them play songs that have been instrumental in healing multiple ailments felt like a dream. I felt like I was sparkling, like a disco ball reflecting beams of light out into the world and not even thinking for a moment about trying to dim its brightness.
The fourth track into the set was “Shake it Out,” which is a song that has meant the world to me since the very moment I heard it over five years ago. The song stitches people back together and reminds you of the importance of letting go. And, as I’ve witnessed Florence say herself, it’s a promise that it’s all going to be alright. Hearing it live for a third time reminded me of its power, and it really made me feel like I could take on the world, and it’s not every day that a song does that.
“Delilah” was another big one for me. I sang along to that song as loud as I possibly could and I danced like a giant idiot and when it came time to, I yelled the lyric “I’m gonna be free and I’m gonna be fine” at the very top of my lungs. And I really believed it. I believed it all. Florence has this innate ability that turns every word she says into absolute truths that you feel like you have to believe. Even the sentences she spoke between songs were like affirmations, things that I wanted to write down a million times over. You can’t argue when a woman with red hair and the voice of an angel who’s wearing a pink, frilly Gucci dress stands in front of you and tells you that the world needs your love and that that moment is yours and that you don’t have to share it with anyone else. You just listen and let it all sink into your soul.
The rest of the set went down in mostly the same way as the first half did. Florence danced around the stage and ran through the crowd and touched our hands and really demonstrated just how magical she is. I sang so loud I could feel my voice beginning to disappear, and I jumped as high as I could when Florence told us to, and I felt the bass match the beat of my heart and I threw my hands in the air so that I could really feel like I was letting go of everything that didn’t serve me and taking in everything lovely and beautiful. I revelled in every word, and I connected with everything I could possibly connect to. And after all that, at the end of the set, “Dog Days Are Over” ushered in a new part of my life – one that I’m still growing into, but one that already feels important and different in the best way possible.
I kind of feel like I left part of me in that concert venue that night. I maybe left some baggage behind, and I definitely started to shed things that I don’t want in my life anymore. But I also gained a full heart and a cleansed soul and a renewed sense of inspiration and passion and determination. Florence + the Machine made me smile, made me believe in myself and my own strength, and made me happy beyond belief. For the first time in a while I felt like I had nothing to worry about and nothing on my mind but what was right in front of me. I left the amphitheatre with a lot of love surrounding me and burning deep within me. That show really made me feel free. Free and light and airy, as if nothing could pull me down. I’m still trying to work out how to bottle that feeling, but for now I’m still relishing in its remnants and just waiting for the next time that band traipses through town and fills me right back up with it.