Florence and the Machine Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Toronto ON August 2

Florence and the Machine Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Toronto ON August 2
With her humungous pipes and predilection for fairy-inspired ensembles, Florence Welch's shtick was built for theatre stages, while her light eccentricity was bound to inspire fervent fandom. Oddly, though, now that she has left clubs and barrooms -- and most of her Kate Bush leanings -- behind, her live show has taken on a new level of intimacy (thank the en masse sing-alongs).

Emerging from an art deco backdrop, clad in a cape dress, and backlit, Florence floated in and so did the sound. Kicking off with a tepid "Only If for a Night," it wasn't a particularly auspicious start. "What the Water Gave Me" fared better with its plodding drums, eerie choral backing vocals and hair-metal guitar coda.

Still, a Florence and the Machine gig is all about the singer's massive vocals, and she used them the way Dominic Toretto uses NOS. "Spectrum" held her in reserve, biding time with tribal drums before cranking it up for the chorus. Ditto "Rabbit Heart," which sprinted out of the gates yet tempered the sound with pensive keys until the main attraction arrived.

Applying the same formula to the setlist, Florence and co. saved the hits ("Shake It Out," "Dog Days" and "Never Let Me Go") for later, creating an ostensibly back-heavy show and ignoring a handful of old staples (especially "Drumming Song" and "Kiss with a Fist"). Nevertheless, bonus highlights came from atypical places, especially the melodramatic -- blame the harp -- "Seven Devils."

Naturally, Florence herself was the star. Though it could have been a layup of a show -- playing to the converted in a standing-room-only setting on a pretty summer night -- she stalked the stage like a pro, tossing off sky-scraping vocals, leading bouncing sessions and keeping up amiable patter.