Florence and the Machine Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion September 29, 2012
Was it really a mere five months ago that local girl Florence Welch and her band were playing the (then) Verizon Wireless Center? Life moves pretty fast, as Ferris Bueller once said, and F+tM's rise has been meteoric indeed.
It was a wet Houston evening that greeted the band Saturday at the Pavilion, a circumstance that neither dampened the crowd's enthusiasm nor kept the singer and company from showing exactly why they deserve to play these larger venues.
Did we mention Welch was a local girl? It's a story she's told before here, but apparently her mother originally hails from Galveston, which is why playing Houston "feels like coming home" to her. Not like the distinctly enthusiastic crowd needed much encouragement, even given a rather standoffish few opening numbers.
And we can't say we didn't enjoy her opening remarks: "Hello, Houston. How are you? We are Florence and the Machine. We come from England and we demand sacrifices." A sentiment more well received in 2012 than, say, 1774. Though if the English of King George's time had been as friendly to Americans as Welch, maybe all that revolutionary ugliness could've been avoided.
Houston's famously mercurial weather appeared to play a factor early on, as Welch likened herself to a "deranged old lady" when she had to take a break to fix her humidity-mussed hair.
But let's be honest, she would've had to come out waving a Dallas Cowboys flag to temper the enthusiasm of the Pavilion crowd Saturday night (and even then, we're not so sure). Lawn seating wasn't offered for the show, a decision that turned out to be fortuitous from a weather perspective, but which also created the illusion of a more intimate venue. If the presence of several thousand rabid Florence fans suffices, that is.
And they were in the palm of her hand from the get-go. On its surface, the "we demand sacrifices" comment seems innocuous, but Houstonians demonstrated early on they were willing to do whatever she commanded. That included climbing on fellow concertgoers' shoulders during "Rabbit Heart" at Welch's behest, for which they were rewarded by her hopping off the stage and running through the crowd.
The set relied heavily on the band's most recent release, Ceremonials, with some of the most enthusiastic responses reserved for "Shake It Out," "Spectrum," and "Seven Devils," that last one taking place during a flare-up in the storm, bringing the audience together as much in musical appreciation as well as meteorological terror.
And we'd be totally remiss if we didn't talk some about Tom Monger, the harp player. How many concert harpists have you seen? We're going to guess 'none,' unless you caught Jethro Tull or Yes in the 1970s. Will harp-heavy cuts like "Heartlines" lead to a modern revival of the instrument? Probably not.
Baroque stylings aside, the strength of F+tM has always been Welch's amazing voice, and she anchored Saturday night's show like few vocalists we've seen. Credit must also be given to her backup vocalists, whose harmonies reminded us of Kelly Hogan's backing of Neko Case.
Florence and her Machine packed a great deal of power and emotion into a relatively short (14 songs, including encore) set, and was very well received. We encourage her to come back "home" as often as she likes.
Personal Bias: I'm an avowed James Bond fan. And while I understand the selection of Adele for the Skyfall theme, I remain staunchly Team Florence.
The Crowd: Why so serious?
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Overheard In The Crowd: "I love her SO MUCH!"
Random Notebook Dump: "What do you call Florence fans? 'Flo-bees?' 'Flo-natics?'