Florence and the Machine is an act that I have been passionately following for a long time now, and was beginning to think I would never be able to see her live as she is from the UK. The opportunity finally came inside the beautiful theater, The Pageant in St. Louis.
Opening for Florence was a young man named Hanni El Khatib from Los Angeles. He only brought drummer, Nicky Fleming-Yaryan with him, so the musical arrangement was vastly different than Florence. My first thought of Hanni was that this was the wrong place for him. The demographic he needs wouldn’t be found in this room. I was wrong. Hanni came out on stage with full force and full intentions of satisfying all the ears in the auditorium. With songs like “Dead Wrong” he and his drummer throw in a doo-whop harmony that had the crowd easily swaying back and forth.
The mood didn’t stay so calm through the set however. With songs “Build, Destroy, Rebuild” and “You Rascal You”, my favorite of the bunch, the sound gets much heavier, with a very simple, low-fi garage sound that I was really digging. I can really see Hanni rolling up to a house party and setting up a couple of amps and drums and just blowing the crowd away with the fun atmosphere he can provide. I know you will love Hanni if you enjoy Jack White’s many adventures or The Black Keys. I would advise everyone out there to pick up Hanni’s debut album, Will The Guns Come Out for an enjoyably raw unique mixing of 50’s and 60’s blues/soul rock.
After Hanni thoroughly warmed the crowd up, the anticipation began to build as a large blue veil was draped over the stage. The crowd filled three fourths with women began to scream every time a shadow walked past to sound check. After about twenty five minutes or so, the lights in the auditorium dropped and the flood lights filled the veiled stage. One by one, all the members of Florence and the Machine took their places at their respective instruments. After that, an airy, and very flowy dress approached the front of the veil, as the crowd screamed in anticipation. Florence danced behind the veil for a minute, teasing the crowd as the music started before finally the drape fell from the ceiling to the floor like a cord being cut.
The stage was beautifully dressed with a colorful backdrop that seemed to change entirely with only a different light filtering it. There were bird cages set up around the stage that lit up and a beautiful harp stage right. None of that really mattered though as no one could take their eyes off of Florence and her elegance as she pranced across the stage with her silky red dress with cape attached for a more dramatic effect. No one can ever say that she is not theatrical.
She played favorites like “Drumming Song” and “Dog Days Are Over” while seamlessly mixing in two or three new songs. I noticed a large absence from the crowd in the respect of singing along to most of the songs. We all knew the words to every song, sans the new ones, but it seemed that no one dared to sing louder than a whisper for fear of missing the most awe-inspiring sounds coming from Florence. And they were truly inspiring. I picked my jaw up off the floor at least twice. In a former life, she was most certainly a seductive Siren from the story of The Odyssey. We were all lured by her enchanting music, luckily, she didn’t lead us to a ship wreck. She actually looked to be having a great time on stage with all of us.
At one point in the night, a young girl up front handed her a painting she had done herself of Florence’s album Lungs. It was beautiful and she loved it so much she set it on stage in front of the drum for the rest of the show. Although her choice of songs for the night was spectacular, there was a bit of a lull in the middle of the set. It seemed that she bursts out on stage with three very stellar and rather heavy songs, only to be followed by three or four slow, or acoustic songs. It did pick up again by the end, but by that time, I knew the end was coming and began to feel sad.
Here it was, my moment of zen, finally seeing the face and performance of the outstanding voice I had been pumping through my iPod for nearly two years and it was about to be over. I quickly tried to photographically capture every detail about the night in my mind. I don’t know when I’ll ever have another chance to see her, and especially in such an intimate setting. I’m almost positive that her next tour through the states will be a headlining tour in huge arenas. So, I feel lucky to have spent this time with her and will always remember that red dress.
story and photos by Angela Davis