Florence and the Machine haunts Boston

By Acacia DiCiaccio

This Halloween evening, the brilliant British band Florence and The Machine graced the House of Blues in Boston to kick off their U.S. tour. The band consists of lead singer Florence Welch and “The Machine,” keyboardist Isabella Summers, Robert Ackroyd on guitar, bassist Mark Saunders, and Tom Monger whose harp received a loud applause when placed on stage.

Their unique style of music combines the common classification of “Brit Pop” with indie rock and the powerful and emotive vocals of lead singer Welch. The band is on tour for their first record release, entitled “Lungs,” which contains motifs of love and gothic imagery that were portrayed perfectly on Halloween night.

The House of Blues was packed with a crowd composed mostly of 20-somethings, many donning costumes in celebration of the holiday. With excited anticipation the crowd waited two hours before the headliner actually began their performance. Concertgoers had to endure two surprisingly terrible openers before their beloved band came onstage after what felt like an unnecessarily long time.

The first opening act, Hanni El Khatib, consisted of merely a drummer and a lead singer/guitarist with completely pointless lyrics and a flawed performance. The Smith Westerns followed, who may have had the potential for greatness had it not been for their completely tone deaf lead vocalist whose hipster pretense caused him not to care that no one was into the music.

After an agonizing wait, the band finally entered the stage, each member wearing a full skeleton costume. Florence herself wore a skeleton-bride costume that appeared to have been cheaply bought then modified, something Welch is known for. At nearly six feet tall, this redhead’s presence was as strong as her vocal performance.

The set began with the song “Howl” about a werewolf. Welch threw in some scary shrieks to add to the song’s Halloween theme. After the next few songs when Welch greeted the audience with a kind smile and genuine gratitude, she pointed out the fact that pretty much all of their songs related to Halloween motifs in some way. This, and the dramatic use of stage lighting, only added to her beautifully haunting vocals.

Even with the few words that she spoke between tracks, Welch’s endearing personality shone through the skeletal makeup and spooky lyrics. The joy she felt for her artistic expression came out through her dancing – she often spun in circles reminiscent of a childlike celebration. Welch also actively involved the audience, encouraging them to sing a scary “Happy Birthday” to keyboardist Isabella Summers and asking everyone to jump up and down on the final joyful song, “Dog Days Are Over.”

The attendees of the Boston show found themselves at a completely organic performance. Florence and the Machine is not known for sticking to one set list, and it was clear that the band chose the most thematic songs for their Halloween show. Not only were the costumes and songs unique to this one night, but listeners were also the first in the United States to see the band perform their newest song, “Strangeness and Charm” from their upcoming second album. The audience clearly approved of this catchy and emotive new track.

Again the audience was made to really work for what they wanted – the encore that was obviously demanded was a long one to wait for. Concertgoers cheered for a while until voices and hands began to hurt, and even after organized chanting and clapping rhythms it seemed to be an eternity before the band returned. The wait was worth it, though. The band saved their most popular songs for last. The encore began with “Heavy in Your Arms” from the Twilight Eclipse soundtrack, and just about everyone was singing along. The next song Welch wrote even before the band had formed. The playful tune about a violent relationship brought the audience to their toes. The band ended with their biggest hit “Dog Days Are Over” and Welch’s energy channeled through the entire crowd. Despite how late everyone had been kept out, the final performance brought on a blast of vigor that no one wanted to end.

Acacia DiCiaccio can be reached at [email protected]