Florence & The Machine – July 25th & 26th – Red Rocks Amphitheatre & Wells Fargo Theatre

Photos by Ty Hyten
Photos from Thursday’s Wells Fargo Show

Story by Ty Hyten & Tim Dwenger

The Scene: Last week, Florence and the Machine made two stops here in Colorado and we were on hand for both of them.  While on the first night, at the majestic Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the atmosphere seemed perfect for the band’s massively powerful, haunting, and beautiful sound, at the second show the group had their work cut out for them to morph the sterile Wells Fargo Theatre into a magical dreamscape.

At both shows the women were out in force, from little girls to baby boomers, the females outnumbered the men three to one.  While Red Rocks felt as welcoming as ever, there was something about the entrance, lobby, and the remarkably utilitarian nature of the Wells Fargo theater that made it feel like walking into a Disney on Ice performance.  Simply put, the Wells Fargo lacked the energy and buzz you expect walking into a huge show by one of the most powerful performers on the planet.

Opener: The Walkmen.  At both shows, The Walkmen took the stage to very little applause around 8pm.  The stark stage, and cold, lifeless lighting, combined with some sound troubles did little to rouse the crowd.  Despite those factors, The Walkmen, aided by bassist Skyler Skjelset from the Fleet Foxes, played a great set highlighted on Wednesday by the new tune “Heartbreaker” and the closer “Heaven.”  In the end, maybe they were playing for the wrong audience to get the attention they deserved.

Florence + The Machine:  At almost exactly 9pm the lights went down and Florence Welch appeared silhouetted on a translucent screen that had a very Art Deco appearance.  She came down from the riser, towards the mic, in a tightly fitted gown (a long flowing caped dress on Thursday) to some of the loudest and shrillest screams you’ve ever heard from a crowd. Her hauntingly beautiful voice belted the words to “Only If For A Night” to start the show.

As she moved around the stage, her powerfully dark voice was enchanting.  Florence and her 8 piece band did an amazing job filling the air with the thick majesty of a well written novel.  She engaged her fans by spontaneously leaving the mic stand and running along the stage, hastily mirrored by her security guard running along with her like a secret service member.  It didn’t take long for me to see why she was an artist capable of generating the buzz she has, as she is not only able to generate excitement on stage but building some fantastical world that sucks her audience in.

At Red Rocks Florence introduced the song “Rabbit Heart” by inviting a few human sacrifices.  While she was joking, she continued by telling us all that at shows in Europe, and at Festivals, she typically wants people to get up on each other’s shoulders for this song but that she was nervous because Red Rocks is “all stairs.”  As people cheered, and one or two girls appeared above the crowd on their boyfriend’s shoulders, she said “only do this if you promise not to fall!”  Eventually, as the song reached its climax, there were probably about 100 brave souls dancing above the rest of the crowd and she rewarded the fans by jumping the barrier, running along the front row, and even hugging an ecstatic man midway through the song.

The highlight of the show at the Wells Fargo was an electric performance of “Shake It Out.”  The energy from the crowd was reverberating off the walls from the very first note of the intro.  While it’s always “darkest before the dawn” I smiled and whispered to my girlfriend “she’s about to play ‘Dog Days’” as the tune wound down and, just as she had every night for the last month or two, she did.

During the song she beckoned for the front rows to move up where they danced, hands in the air. Midway through the song, the music faded out and she explained in her thick British accent that this is “a little ritual we do” as she showed her fans a jumping and clapping routine that she had again put a disclaimer on the previous night as she was afraid of “some kind of mass bungle.”  On both evenings the site of a capacity crowd jumping up and down in perfect synchronicity was nothing short of amazing!

By far the most powerful moment of both performances was Florence requesting a moment of silence for the victims of the shooting in Aurora at the beginning of the encore.  While there were a few drunk’s proudly calling attention to themselves at both shows, the crowd was able to remain eerily silent for more than a few seconds in reflection of the tragedy and it was incredibly powerful.  Florence then dedicated a charged version of “Never Let Me Go” to the victims and the show ended with the band playing “No Light, No Light” to an ecstatic crowd.

While we came into the shows expecting a great performance based on friends’ recommendations, and other reviews we had read, we were really taken aback by the whole production.  As music fans who are loosely familiar with the work of Florence and The Machine we thoroughly enjoyed the performances as one complete package and can only imagine that her hardcore fans were blown away.  The only complaint we can offer would be the predictability of her setlist, but perhaps that contributes to the well-orchestrated show that is Florence and her well-oiled machine.

Energy: A+
Sound: A
Musicianship: A
Stage Presence: A+
Set / Light show: A+

Overall: A+