Florence and The Machine | Lollapalooza | August 5, 2012
Photo: Jaclyn Rivas
What Florence and the Machine delivered Sunday night was nothing short of legendary. Led by the charismatic Florence Welch, the British group demonstrated an impeccable technical performance while fostering an amazing audience-performer relationship. The set ultimately drew what’s being cited as the largest crowd that stage has ever seen. This, folks, is what will be played and replayed as big-screen filler for years to come at Lollapalooza. Future festival performers, take note.
Before the set even began, a record-breaking crowd had already formed. Stretching all the way back to the street and expanding onto the Playstation stage, the scene easily trumped the combined audiences for headliners Black Sabbath and Avicii—times five. While the numbers were staggering, it was Welch’s performance that confirmed she was worth the trouble of being overcrowded.
She took the stage like what can only be described as a Mucha painting come to life. From her ethereal gown and perfectly coiffed hair to the Art Nouveau stage decoration, even her movements seemed to be taken from the Czech artist’s catalog of poses. Opening with “Only If For A Night,” Welch’s poise and eye for theatricality set a very high standard. She stayed rather stoic at the mic until the chorus of “Cosmic Love” caused her to erupt into action, skipping from one side of the stage to the other while still hitting and sustaining every note. Though frenzied, each motion seemed graceful and balletic, offering further depth to a well-crafted performance.
But what really brought the set to legendary heights was Welch’s consistent interaction with the crowd. She repeatedly doled out bizarre tasks, but delivered her requests with such conviction and earnestness that nobody dared defy her. “Rabbit Hole (Raise It Up)” had her insist the crowd deliver “human sacrifices” by raising bodies up. Suddenly, there were hundreds of people on the shoulders of their neighbor, bobbing up and down to the beat. Later, Welch asked the audience to embrace, then giddily announcing, “Look! They’re snogging!” when two attendees got wrapped up in the moment. Towards the end of the set, in a manner that can only be likened to teaching the Von Trapp children how to sing, Welch gave a detailed description of her next task: jumping. Amazingly, she was able to get tens of thousands of people to obey her every command.
Amidst the antics, the set remained strong. Highlights included “What the Water Gave Me,” “Spectrum,” and of course, “Dog Days Are Over.” A climactic moment came with the debut live performance of the single “Breath of Life” off the Snow White and the Huntsmen soundtrack. With all of the above elements working seamlessly together, the entire northern side of the festival was in utter rapture. Ultimately, Florence and the Machine provided something previously unthinkable: a headlining performance during the daylight.