Florence + the Ma­chine finds up­lift in heartache

The China Post - - ARTS & LEISURE - BY SHAUN TAN­DON

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.

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