Published Oct 26, 2015Five backup singers, a harpist, an organist, a harpsichord player, a percussionist, two guitarists and a bass player all accompanied Florence Welch in her slow, confident walk in white across the floor-level front barrier as she took the stage at Rogers Arena last night (October 25) in Vancouver.
Their travelling choir, stopped at customs, meant that the band needed the help of the packed stadium to flesh out their third track "Shake it Out," the sonorous accompaniment creating an absolutely divine experience. Three of the five backup singers doubled as brass accompanists, grabbing their instruments midway through and capping the already triumphant track.
Welch commands an amount of respect not garnered by many performers; chalk it up to her unrivalled vocal magnitude, her unabashed, unapologetic stage presence, her unassuming yet penetrative demeanour or her evident self-love and outward compassion. This is a woman, and band, that can command an entire stadium to wave their hands in unison for well over a minute by raising hers for all of three seconds, who jumps off stage and runs the length of the stadium during "Rabbit Heart" to jump up on the back camera platform to sing for the back half of the audience, who can twirl across the stage and strike a pose during "Delilah" and have thousands of people swoon.
A slightly broken down, piece-y rendition of "You've Got the Love" garnered an unimaginable crowd response, while an absolutely stunning surround sound wall of brass burst forth at the end of "How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful" as Welch, backlit in beautiful amber light, blithely moved in time, red hair catching like fire. "Cosmic Love" crept forth quietly, the intimate rendition building with the use of harp, acoustic guitar and harpsichord.
A sweep of her hand and the crowd suddenly filled in the entire end of the track, thousands sweetly crooning the end melody while the stage sat serenely empty. A completely stripped-down version of Calvin Harris's collaboration with Florence, "Sweet Nothing," came as a surprise, the sultry chords coming through in the form of piano, acoustic guitar, backup vocals and off-beat percussion, rather than pulsing, aggrandizing synths.
The sound the band conjured was often unbelievable — that such power is possible in such a space by a dozen people! — and the amount of energy exuded by Welch without even breaking a sweat remarkable. "Spectrum" had percussion so distinct and pounding it was visceral, getting everyone to dance — an absolutely packed stadium jumping, swaying in unison.
The entire crowd erupted at the first hint of the opening chords of "Dog Days Are Over," as Welch encouraged everyone to turn to the person beside them and hug, embrace, kiss, shed clothing, shed the things they don't need, that weigh them down, raise them high. To see thousands of bodies jump at once while swinging jackets, sweaters, hats and scarves in the air while tossing them onstage was one thing — seeing Welch collect them all to raise them in a triumphant fist was another entirely.
They performed the first single from How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, "What Kind Of Man," as their encore, Welch dramatically dropping to her knees at the first pound of percussion, then running into the crowd to close out the track. The last song of the night, "Drumming Song," was a culmination of the entire show, an intensity that seemed to grow tenfold as it built to the climax.
By song's end, Welch had achieved something spectacular with the crowd — not to mention that she'd finally broken a sweat.