Florence and The Machine - SECC, Glasgow, Mon 12 Mar
Stunning show from the 21st century diva
Has Florence Welch ever told you about the time she flew up to Glasgow on a whim to visit a friend who lives in a castle in the Highlands? The four-hour bus journey that followed – still in her pyjamas – took her through Lochgilphead, where her Scottish granny (cue applause) used to holiday as a girl. This journey was the last act of a very heavy weekend, of course. God, those heavy weekends. She’s just off the back of one now, as it happens …
All of which helps to illustrate the 24-carat crackpottery required to fully live up to that ‘new Kate Bush’ mantle, as if wafting in through what looks like an enormous Art Deco hotel lobby, wearing a brown sequinned cape, hasn’t already announced Welch as an arena act worthy of the name. Many artists graduate to a venue of this size through a combination of perseverance and marketing, but with Welch the feeling persists that she’s here because she was destined to be; that she has the songs, the style, the sheer talent and the winning level of affirmative eccentricity to be bound for superstardom and no less.
The impersonation of stony-eyed otherworldliness she opens with lasts almost half the set, in the end, with ‘Only if for a Night’ and ‘What the Water Gave Me’ performed with a voice as crystalline as a heavenly choir and an expression as beatifically detached as Alison Goldfrapp in her pomp. Murmured hellos from the darkness seemed at odds with the woman confidently proclaiming, ‘We are all too young to die’ during ‘Between Two Lungs’, a declaration that she intends to hang around if ever there was one. But she couldn’t resist telling us about her big nights out for long, and the frost thawed as she conducted mountainous anthem ‘Shake It Out’s ‘ooh’-ing coda.
A good set got better and better as it went on, with Welch and the audience loosening their dancing feet to ‘Dog Days Are Over’, and her now-standard Candi Staton cover ‘You Got the Love’ and the dense, rich pound of ‘Spectrum’ taking her into the territory of Ibiza’s last anthemic build-up of the morning. Both Florences, the arena ice queen and the after-party princess, have surely arrived as an essential pop star for the 21st century.