“I KEEP FORGETTING I BROKE MY FOOT!”
Based on how she was sprinting, twirling, leaping and diving yesterday onstage at Governors Ball, it’s easy to see how Florence Welch had broken her foot in the first place — and also why she’d get so caught up in the performance that she’d then forget about the healing injury entirely.
Welch jumped offstage and broke her foot at Coachella earlier this festival season, and as a result, she had to re-work her show in order to sit down for the performances following her Indio accident. Her Saturday Night Live performance — which served as the mainstream debut of “Ship to Wreck” and “What Kind of Man” off her latest album, How Big, How Blue How Beautiful — was a seated one, and though Welch sounded just as ascendant and strong as ever, she was visibly restrained and, well, anchored. This is a woman who’s voice hits the kind of heights those who built cathedrals used to dream about, a force to be reckoned with who can level a field with one belt should she choose to do so. At Governors Ball, Welch, on the mend, was finally able to ditch the stool and get back on her feet, and she really got back on her feet, kicking off shoes, lapping the stage barefoot and nailing a few moves that an Olympic figure skater would raise an approving eyebrow at. CLEARLY she kept forgetting she broke her damn foot. She was simply too thrilled to be back in her element on her own terms for the first time since touring behind How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful got underway, and her fans present were just as beside themselves.
Despite the fact that Florence + The Machine took to the stage nearly half an hour after their scheduled start time, the crowd screamed their faces off upon confirming a visual of the flame-haired siren behind some of the most uplifting singles of the past decade. Starting with “What The Water Gave Me” off 2011’s Ceremonials, Welch played many parts throughout her set, every passing song eliciting an emotional and physical response from her as she rolled through her biggest hits and new material.
For the songs with teeth — basically anything off How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful — Welch was a seething, smoldering goddess hurling lethal stares and punches, flailing limbs and cutting lines with an exquisite fury. When she pointed to the harp with a perfectly poised and outstretched arm before jumping into her career-launching hit “Dog Days Are Over,” she was acting the part of a Grace Slickian fairy godmother, all billowing sleeves and toothy grin as the telltale harp strings set it off. There was no whiplash between these breaks in personality, as Welch is that good at what she does: She’s sincere, it shows, and we get that an intense performer can serve as a conduit for the emotional gamut in its entirety over the course of ten songs.
Part of Welch’s intense likeability lies in the fact that she’s an imperfect pop star: Hers is the kind of voice that you simply love or don’t, the type that can be described as “strident” and “striking” in the same breath, one praised as a truly rock ‘n’ roll-channeling alternative to the Adeles and Taylors and Arianas of the charts or written off as a belter lacking finesse and cookie-cutter technique. Welch’s frankness and brutal honesty when it comes to her own narrative is triumphant and undeniable, a relatable, welcome presence in pop that takes charge of her dark moments and forges them into epiphanies.
Of these tunes in Welch’s arsenal, the new stuff packed the strongest punch at Governors Ball, with “Ship to Wreck” and “What Kind of Man” standing out as moments that made you feel like you were a part of something bigger, a scene that could eventually be looked back on as a moment that contributed to Florence + The Machine’s achievement of immortal status in the pop canon. We felt like we were a part of a huge moment for Welch and company because she made us a part of a huge moment, running into the crowd to hug crowd-surfers and surge off the energy of those hanging over the barricade in the front row.
Strident, striking, whatever — the only thing to gripe about regarding Florence + The Machine’s Governors Ball set is that it was entirely too brief and could’ve easily stretched beyond the confines of their inexplicably shortened set. That, and that Welch could stand to be a bit kinder to herself and her appendages. “I keep forgetting about my broken foot!” We feel you, Florence. We got swept away for a second there, too.