Florence + the Machine dazzles Davis
Appearing behind a sheer shadow box a top the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts stage on Wednesday night, Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine, launched into her lilting “Only if For One Night,” the starting track off her 2011 record release “Ceremonials.”
The crowd, captivated by Welch’s charisma and gold-studded cloak, cheered as the singer reverently raised her arms like a black bird and crooned the chorus line: “But you came over me like some holy rite, and although I was burning, you’re the only light! Only if for a night!” Her graceful, yet guttural vocals permeated the theatre full with Florence aficionados.
Behind her, a tapestry of stained glass cathedral windows and celestial harps echoed "Ceremonials"’ recurring theme–the spiritual struggle between good and evil, darkness and light. Her fascination with doom and salvation has not only surfaced in her lyrics (“Looking for heaven in the devil in me,” she sings in “Shake it Out”), but also through her UC Davis debut performance.
Now standing center stage, Welch, dressed like a druid, twirled like a dervish and unraveled her proverbial black cape to reveal an angelic, white gown ala “The Lady of Shalott.” As if finally free from her past, possessed persona, the renewed Welch fluttered from one end of the stage to the other, her sleeves flowing behind her in a blur.
It wasn’t until after the fifth song of the night, “Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up)," that the singer spoke.
“If you saw a pale girl in short shorts playing basketball today, that was me,” she said, confessing that the way she plays is just “rubbish.”
The audience laughed and perhaps some wondered if they had passed up, while walking through campus, a rare chance to shoot hoops with a Brit-pop star.
One opportunity Wech ensured the crowd would not miss, however, was to sing along with her. This was most apparent during the acoustic “Heartlines” where, before the number reached the first verse, she suddenly stopped the song.
“Oh! I forgot to ask,” she said, the drums crashing to a halt. “You can sing this one with me!”
She then lowered the microphone to excited members of the audience, encouraging them to harmonize. “Yeah… Yeah… Just keep following the heartlines on your hand!” the room roared.
Accompanying Welch were her supporting "machine" of musicians, which included harpist Tom Monger, two back-up singers, drummer Christopher Hayden and her original music partner, Isabella “Machine” Summers on keys.
Backed by this enigmatic engine, Welch finally broke into “Dog Days are Over,” one of the group’s most played songs to date. The audience went wild as Welch coordinated the crowd to jump in complete unison, and soon the singer was conducting a full symphony of springing, singing fans.
Then, prior to the encore, Florence + the Machine ended the evening with “Never Let Me Go," which the audience made very clear they were not ready to do.
Photography by Rik Keller. To view more photos from the evening, please visit his image gallery.