Last Night: Florence + the Machine at Bayou Music Center
If you skipped Florence and the Machine's show at Bayou Music Center on Wednesday, you might be out of luck. The English indie-poppers aren't likely to be playing the theater again anytime soon.
Judging by the sold-out crowd's enthusiastic response to the band's electrifying performance, Flo and the bros seem destined to be playing amphitheaters instead on the group's next trek through the U.S.
The drinks started flowing and the cameras started flashing almost as soon as the venue's doors opened Wednesday night as an army of young ladies wearing their cutest dresses filed in, boyfriends in tow. Clearly, this was a concert many had been looking forward to for some time -- at least since Florence + the Machine released their latest album, Ceremonials, last October. Given the rate at which pocket Canons were snapping away before the music even began, full play-by-play coverage of the show could probably be found live on Facebook.
Blood Orange, the guitar/electronica project from Lightspeed Champion mastermind Devonté Hynes, warmed up the crowd as people filtered into the theater. Hynes was born in Houston and raised in Essex, England, but his set didn't quite receive the down-home welcome of a homecoming gig.
People in the crowd chatted, stood in line for beer and applauded politely as he worked through tracks like "Sutphin Boulevard" and "Bad Girls" on his Fender Strat, backed by a laptop and sequencer combo.
Hynes showed off some nifty finger-tapping riffs and a spot-on Jimi Hendrix shimmy, but the fact remained inescapable that he was neither Florence nor machine. I spotted a lot of folks absently checking their smartphones as he wrapped up his set in front of the huge stage curtain.
The energy picked up big time when that curtain came down and Florence's stage set was revealed. The stained-glass set dressings, combined with the piano, organ and harp onstage, gave the cavernous theater the feel of a church sanctuary, and when vocal dynamo Florence Welch appeared wearing a flowing black robe, she could have passed for clergy.
Or Stevie Nicks. Maybe Stevie Nicks if she'd pursued a career in ministry. As the band lit into "Only If for the Night," the opening track from Ceremonials, Welch twirled and swirled her robe around her with all the eccentric mystique of the Fleetwood Mac frontwoman.
The band surrounding Welch onstage was large -- eight musicians total, including two backup singers. But the black-clad backing group seemed to disappear into the shadows as soon as Florence opened her mouth. Wow.
Welch's dynamic voice morphed effortlessly from a soft lilt to strong, impassioned moans, captivating the capacity crowd beginning with her first note. There was no question who the star was on Wednesday night.
The band's set was heavy on material from Ceremonials, including the plaintive, pounding "What the Water Gave Me" and the driving rock of "Spectrum." Some of the most ecstatically received songs, however, came from the group's 2009 debut, Lungs. Fans danced and clapped along as Welch belted out "Between Two Lungs," and the crowd was happy to oblige her request to hoist a few ladies onto their shoulders during "Rabbit Heart" as the smiling singer bopped across the stage.
It was hard to miss the show's contemporary-worship vibe, even when Welch cast off her robe and revealed an altogether Nicksian sheer black dress and scarf. The redheaded singer packed all the power of a complete church choir into her vocals, particularly in the crowd favorite "Lover to Lover." As her voice soared again and again, hands shot up across the floor as audience members appeared to lift up their testimony.