The utterly amazing Florence Welch, performing in New York this summer.

The utterly amazing Florence Welch, performing in New York this summer.

Amazing. I’m not talking about the world-famous city in Italy. I’m talking about Florence Welch, lead singer of the British indie band Florence + the Machine.

Saw her in concert Saturday night at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, a perfect venue for Welch and her band. The arena isn’t nearly as cavernous as the Rose Garden (er, Moda Center) yet it was big enough to accommodate a crowd of several thousand who came ready to party.

Florence put on a superb show, unlike I’ve seen in recent (or even distant) memory. With my fondness for singer-songwriters like Amos Lee and Patty Griffin, I’m accustomed to seeing them basically stand in one place while they sing and play guitar.

Not Florence Welch. From the opening song to the last, she was on the move. Jumping, bouncing, spinning, twirling, running from one end of the stage to the other. Hopping onto raised platforms, pirouetting, even leaving the stage once to make a mad dash into the audience. And I mean she ran, like a freakin’ sprinter, during “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up),” to a place halfway into the crowd, finishing the song with a hug for one lucky fan.

Lead singer Florence Welch is a blend of Annie Lennox, Stevie Nicks and Joe Cocker.

Lead singer Florence Welch is a blend of Annie Lennox, Stevie Nicks and Joe Cocker.

How to describe Florence Welch? I’ve often thought of her in the same vein as Annie Lennox, blessed with a big, powerful voice and the same tall, slender stature. But unlike Annie’s super-short hair, Florence has a mane of gorgeous red hair flowing down her back that defines her look and suggests a barely contained wild thing persona.

I’ve also thought of her as similar to Stevie Nicks, as she carries a mysterious aura and has a vocal sound that’s uniquely her own.

Last night, I thought of one more comparison. She performs with the intensity of a young Joe Cocker, complete with hand gestures, pouring every bit of herself into each song.

She wore a white satin jumpsuit with puffy sleeves and flared bottoms. And toward the end of the concert, when she laid on her back at the end of a song, the camera provided a close-up of her bare feet. No wonder she was able to run, leap and spin as much as she did. No shoes to worry about.

Florence Welch had energy to burn Saturday night, running, jumping, twirling -- even sprinting into the audience.

Florence Welch had energy to burn,  running, jumping, twirling — even sprinting into the audience — during a concert Saturday at Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum..

Madonna performed in concert a week earlier in Portland and I have no doubt she put on a great show. But I’d be willing to bet Florence + The Machine brought equal energy and musicianship. (I marvel at the fact they’re able to work a harp and xylophone into their music.)

It’s a wonderful thing to see a performer who clearly is enjoying herself and holding back nothing. Florence had people on their feet most of the night. During “Dog Days Are Over,” her last song before a two-song encore, she encouraged everyone to remove a piece of clothing and join her in waving it over their head.

Several songs earlier, she asked the crowd to put away their cellphones for just one song “and enjoy it with your eyes and each other.”

I thought that was pretty classy.

At 29 and with a new CD just out (“How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful”), Florence Welch is going to be entertaining audiences all over the world for years to come. As good as she sounds in the studio, she is even better live — a genuine force of nature.

Lead photograph: The Associated Press

More photographs: Kristyna Wentz-Graff, The Oregonian Florence + The Machine makes a Portland crowd its choir


2 thoughts on “Florence!

  1. Only concert that I have been too that exuded that much energy was Tina Turner and she did it in heels. You make me want to check out Florence and the Machine. thanks George!

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