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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Florence and the Machine Encourage Masonic Crowd to Free the Nipple

Posted By on Thu, Apr 9, 2015 at 10:52 AM

click to enlarge img_3185.jpg
Florence and the Machine
The Masonic
April 8, 2015

Florence and the Machine didn't waste any time getting comfortable with the crowd at the Masonic last night. Halfway through their hit song "Dog Days Are Over" the band brought their instruments to a whisper so that Florence Welch, the group's front woman, could talk the crowd into taking off some clothes.

Last time the band played San Francisco Welch trained the crowd to jump on command. This time around, Welch explained she wanted to add something special on top of that. First, she asked the crowd to embrace one another. They happily obliged, and strangers who would normally avoid eye contact on a crowded BART train hugged excitedly. Next, she asked everyone to take off an article of clothing — offering one of her shoes as an example.

The crowd cheered, hitting a note higher than most concert crowds could, and threw some surface-level clothing into the air. Welch wasn't satisfied. Intent on manipulating the crowd in the middle of her biggest song, she asked for more articles of clothing.

"Get free San Francisco, I know you want to," she yelled into the microphone.

A bra flew on stage. That's what Welch was after.

"OK, now that we've made you get naked and hug each other we can play again," Welch joked while holding up the bra for the crowd (and band) to see.

The band kicked it back into high gear, picking up where they had left off in "Dog Days Are Over" as (most) of the audience pogoed ecstatically. 

Welch's vocals, enhanced by the natural reverb of the venue (and the digital equivalent), were in top form all night. But despite a performance that did all the band's recordings justice, the crowd remained split. Some were having near-religious experiences in the aisle ways while other sat on their hands — despite repeated calls from Welch for everyone to stand up.

One defiant cluster of 10-15 audience members in the balcony sat through the whole show, even during the concert's high spots when nearly everyone else was dancing. Welch didn't call them out — instead choosing to focus on the adoring fans in other sections, and also probably trying to avoid a Kanye West-esque moment — but the section did eventually pop out of their chairs (when the show was over). 

The concert was the band's first in the US since the release of a few tracks off their upcoming LP How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (an album Welch said was named after the American sky) and likely provides a sneak peak into what kind of set they intend on playing at their upcoming Coachella performance.

The band opened with "What The Water Gave Me" off 2011's Ceremonials and then went right into 2015's  "What Kind of Man" off How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. From there the band continued to pair old with new throughout the set, often putting their newest songs next to the oldest ones. Perhaps the strongest pairing was 2011's "Drumming Song" tag teamed with the brand-new single "Ship To Wreck." They did skip over a few of their better deep cuts, like 2009's "My Boy Builds Coffins," but you know, whatever.

"Ship to Wreck" stood out as one of the stronger songs of the night. It's emotional vibe mixed with Welch's Janis Joplin-like flowing white shirt made for good visual accompaniment. Welch played with a spotlight directed at the crowd throughout the night, transforming herself from singer to dancing silhouette during the more instrumental moments of the set.

The crowd asked for one of those it's-obviously-happening encores and was granted a few more new cuts off How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful ("St Jude" and "Third Eye"). 

Florence and the Machine play the Masonic again tonight [4/9].

Critics notebook:

—Before the show a group of yuppies casually smoked a joint outside an overpriced-and-overfull parking garage, just feet away from a police officer. 

—Welch's speaking voice is incredibly small compared to her powerhouse vocals. You'd never be able to recognize them as coming from the same person if you didn't know better. 

—Florence seems to draw more women than men to her concerts. There were lots of pairs of new-grandmother-looking friends enjoying a night out of the town. Most men in my general vicinity were accompanied by a more-interested partner (of either sex).
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About The Author

Matt Saincome

Matt Saincome

Matt Saincome is SF Weekly's former music editor.

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