Florence + the Machine finds uplift in heartache
Florence + the Machine delves into the intense emotional terrain of heartbreak for the band’s highly anticipated new album but, with an audience, it feels like a spiritual revival. The group led by gusty- voiced show- woman Florence Welch offered an initial live interpretation Friday of the album, “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful,” on the opening day of the Governors Ball festival in New York.
Welch, who dyes her hair fiery red and has collaborated with leading fashion houses, has built a loyal following through her theatrical flair and penchant for symbolic abstractions that have drawn comparisons to Kate Bush.
But for “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful,” Welch strips down the brash exterior as she confronts head-on a doomed relationship.
The imagery steers into heavy territory, with Welch invoking the Biblical story of Delilah’s betrayal and singing of the apostle Jude, “the patron saint of lost causes ... Maybe I’ve always been more comfortable in chaos.”
On a stage with a glittering me- tallic backdrop, the London-based band brought out a harp and female backup singers who doubled as a brass section that was at once blaring and plaintive.
But Welch performed not with dreariness but with the air of a spiritual guide, telling the crowd that the album was “inspired by a big patch of blue American sky.”
“It comes from a time when I was in love with everything, and everyone,” the 28-year-old said.
She ended her set with a cheery call on the thousands of Governors Ball devotees, packed on a park on the city’s Randall’s Island, to reach out and “embrace each other.”
And Welch followed her own advice. When she spotted a sign deep in the crowd with a oneword request for a hug, Welch — to the surprise of the fan, as much as anyone — obliged.
“You can have a hug, but I don’t know how to get to you,” Welch said, before instructing the woman to crowd-surf forward. The startled fan, clutching a large leather purse, let the excited audience’s hands push her body forward to the stage for a prolonged round of hugs with the band.