It’s fair to say that after her jaw-droppingly inspiring Glastonbury performance this year, those who were not yet aware of the overwhelming talent Florence Welch (of Florence + The Machine) possesses will have finally had their eyes opened to the artist’s prowess. Since releasing Lungs, her first album with ‘The Machine’ in 2009, Florence has mystically danced her way from strength to strength with two critically acclaimed albums, several prestigious awards and a series of striking performances. And though we must recognise the unquestionable talent of her fellow bandmates, here we’re focusing on the 28 year old herself, and why I believe Florence isn’t just a musician.
Let’s rewind to Reading 2012, where Welch performed songs from Lungs and Ceremonials. For me, it was a festival of firsts. My first festival, my first time seeing Florence and the first time that a musician’s performance really made me feel something. I’d always enjoyed the organic style of her music, but that was all, a mere appreciation of her sound. As I stood waiting, slowly sinking into the muddy sludge beneath, I didn’t realise how much of an impact the concert would have.
After beginning the show beneath a shadowy, cloud-riddled sky it began raining. An undaunted, barefooted Florence gave her all, ’Spectrum (Say My Name)’ echoing beneath a canopy of raindrops. As my friends and I bounded about the floor to the song’s beating rhythm, I felt myself building a deeper connection to the music. The way the audience fed from her electric vitality and she in turn fed from ours was what made that performance spectacular, a symbiotic relationship of oomph. So my appreciation for Florence continued to flower, coming to full fruition during this summer.
After teasing her fans with several beautifully shot music videos in the first half of this year, Welch released How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful at the beginning of June. The album has a heavenly quality, even in the quieter tracks it still feels vast. And although this extension to her discography feels different to her prior records, it still feels like a continuation, something which can be difficult to achieve.
Following this third bout of continued innovation and my remembrance of her 2012 performance, my respect continued to grow until I realised something. The elaboration of her imagination, which we hear and see through her lyrics, voice and physical performance, shows how it isn’t just about the music with her. She’s a combination of all aspects of art. Describing Welch as merely a musician feels too narrow, too confining, because her talent is all-encompassing. The concretion of that notion came when I saw her headlining Glastonbury this year, whilst stood on familiarly soggy ground.
As the crowd awaited her arrival, the question of whether Florence could fill the huge boots of the Foo Fighters was on everyone’s lips. Out she struts, seizes the microphone, lowers her head and raises an arm. Her angular silhouette, confident, bold and fierce soothes all our worries and answers all of our doubts. She’s not worried about filling anyone’s boots, she’s an artist in her own right. That is why I believe Florence isn’t just a musician, she’s so much more.