Florence and the Machine is maybe the only band that can accept “soundtrackcore” as a compliment without a hint of backhand to go with it. Think of “Dog Days Are Over” or “You’ve Got the Love” and a handful of pivotal, empowering sequences from popular movies, commercials, or television montages pop up — even if the songs didn’t actually serve as the backing track for them. If it’s a euphoric moment, one that requires a dance break in public or a driving-with-the-windows-down kind of scene, it’s easy to assume the striking, strong voice of Welch, tight vibrato and indestructible belt and all, will go with it.
It’s been a proper minute since the flame-haired siren stepped up to the mic, with the forthcoming How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful dropping four years after the Machine’s last album, 2011’s Ceremonials. With a full festival schedule ahead of her this summer and new feel-good anthems for the peddling, Saturday Night Live was more or less the mainstream debut of Welch’s latest material — and it’s good to see that a little time off spent in the studio didn’t lead to a dramatic shift, but a deeper dive into the stockpile of positive vibes that’s shaped her way to success.
To start, Flo — seated at the mic instead of standing, as she recently broke her foot — wasted no time in delivering “Ship to Wreck” in the manner to which we’re accustomed: soaring high notes that steer clear of strident territory; driving, danceable rhythm; a chorus that warms you from the inside out when you sing along with it; etc. Place your bets now that “Ship to Wreck” will wind up licensed for some Memorial Day rom-com or major season finale.
As for the haunting smolder of “What Kind of Man,” Welch went from ethereal and heady to direct and probing in the matter of a downbeat, taking the offender to task lyric by lyric as she recounted the disappointments racked up during the dissolution of a once loving relationship. Her backup singers seemed to swathe her in the tragic tone of a Greek chorus over the build and burst of the song. Some notes hit the ear a little too harsh, but if anything, the imperfections just contributed to the intensity of the performance and the controlled chaos of Welch at the mic. In short: raw, rocking, and rad.
Twitter more or less agreed that Welch’s return had been a welcome one, though it’d be nice if she could be hailed as an artist of her own making, instead of brushed off as a Jefferson Airplane descendant or Stevie Nicks imitator. Behold, Florence Welch according to the internet peanut gallery…
On the next page: Twitter reacts to Florence and the Machine’s SNL performance
[First things first: Florence Henderson is the mom on The Brady Bunch, you guys. Florence Henderson is not the Florence with the Machine.
Dad: Who’s the musical act on tonight’s SNL?
Mom: Florence and the Hendersons.
(My mom listens to KROQ everyday so idk what happened lol)
— bri-lo (@brihive) May 10, 2015
FLORENCE HENDERSON & THE MACHINE
— THE MAGIC WHIP (@_ALBERTV) May 10, 2015
Doooohohoho I saw what you did there.
I’m guessing she’s Florence, but which of these people is the Machine? #SNL
— Jeff Burnett (@burnettski92) May 10, 2015
Which member is Florence and which one, is the machine #SNL
— brandon. (@bordernirvana) May 10, 2015
Points for getting to the point?
Florence + the machine on snl appreciation tweet
— āmir (@uhmere) May 10, 2015
Plenty of viewers saw the Grace Slick/Jefferson Airplane similarities…
Florence and the machine reminds me of every Vietnam era movie and I am immediately obsessed with Jefferson airplane #SNL
— jeff (@jeffisbell) May 10, 2015
Florence and the machine? You mean Jefferson airplane? #SNL
— Brian Horton (@bhorton42) May 10, 2015
…Or they thought she was biting Jenny Lewis’s Voyager status.
— Jonna Isaac (@jonnaisaac) May 10, 2015
Florence Welch is the present day Stevie Knicks and of you don’t think so watch her perform on SNL. She slays that song WHILE sitting down.
— Myle Kunson (@mylekunson) May 10, 2015
Or Bonnie Raitt.
Florence is channeling Bonnie Rait tonight. #snl
— lipsalad (@lipsalad) May 10, 2015
Or everyone. (That’d be some baby, though.)
If Jovi, Aerosmith, and Bowie had a baby it would be Florence on this #snl right now
— S. E. Turocy (@seturocy) May 10, 2015
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