Florence Welch acknowledged that the touring version of her band Florence + The Machine has grown during her magnificent appearance at Providence Medical Center Amphitheater on Tuesday. Gesturing to the 11 musicians who backed her for 100 captivating minutes, she noted that “we have got a little bit bigger.”
She might also have been alluding to the burgeoning popularity of her R&B-inflected pop band. About 15,000 fans spanning several generations attended the concert by the British group. Welch’s soaring voice, cathartic songs and rapturous performance justified their devotion.
Welch repeatedly raced across the stage at the outdoor venue in Bonner Springs like a sprinter training for the Olympics. Although her theatrical gesticulations and interpretive dancing should have seemed preposterous, Welch’s boundless enthusiasm appeared to be unforced. The audience responded accordingly, following Welch’s request to serve as a “hungover choir” on the glorious song of absolution “Shake It Out” and falling almost completely silent during a few dramatic a cappella sequences.
Aside from glamorous lighting and a glittery backdrop that caused the ensemble to look as if it were trapped inside an enormous mirror ball, Welch’s antics provided all of the special effects.
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The large band replicated the orchestral sweep of “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful,” the title track of Florence + The Machine’s third and most recent studio album. A three-piece horn section and a harp accentuated a liberating version of “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up).” Five backing vocalists provided a gospel undercurrent to an arrangement of the harrowing “Delilah.”
An exquisite reading of “Ship to Wreck” sounded like the sort of pop Adele might make if she were deeply troubled, while the band evoked a malevolent version of ABBA on the sinister disco song “Queen of Peace.” A rendition of Florence + The Machine’s 2008 breakout hit “Dog Days Are Over” induced deliriously joyous mayhem.
Welch’s slight vocal wobble on an exciting interpretation of “Sweet Nothing,” her 2012 collaboration with the electronic music producer Calvin Harris, was a rare imperfection.
Welch’s monumental voice was even more impressive when contrasted with the impish squeak of opening act Grimes. Born in Canada as Claire Elise Boucher, Grimes is a mildly subversive dance-pop artist. Accompanied by two dancers and a vocalist/percussionist, Grimes performed 45 minutes of spunky dance music that contained little of the jubilant immediacy of Florence + The Machine.
Florence + the Machine set list
What the Water Gave Me; Ship to Wreck; Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up); Shake It Out; Delilah; Sweet Nothing; How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful; Cosmic Love; Long & Lost; Mother; Queen of Peace; Spectrum; You Got the Love; Dog Days Are Over; What Kind of Man; Drumming Song