Florence Welch has one of those voices that is instantly recognizable. Florence + The Machine hit the scene almost 10 years ago, and they have steadily gained popularity with each new album they release.
This was my second time seeing Florence + The Machine perform. What I learned the first time, is that you are going to get some self-admitted “hippie moments” from Florence. You are also going to get a lot of Florence spinning and dancing around the stage. But most importantly, you are going to hear Florence’s amazing voice along with her talented back-up band that makes up “The Machine”.
Did Florence deliver the second time around? Does her voice and performance fill up an arena? Keep reading to find out!
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The Wells Fargo Center is home to Philadelphia’s indoor sports teams like the Flyers, the 76er’s and the Soul. It also hosts many concerts throughout the year. If a band is doing an “arena tour” and coming to the Philadelphia area, the Wells Fargo Center is where they will play.
The Wells Fargo Center was built in 1996 to replace The Spectrum, which was where the Flyers and 76er’s originally played. As with many arenas, the naming rights have been bought and sold throughout the years. It started out as the Core States Center, changed to the First Union Center in 1998, changed again to the Wachovia Center in 2003, and finally the Wells Fargo Center in 2013.
The Wells Fargo Center holds around 20,000 for basketball and hockey games. For concerts, depending on the configuration, it can hold an additional thousand or so. The typical set up for a concert has the stage set on the floor in one end of the arena, and either standing general admission or temporary seating on the floor.
Tip #1: As the configuration can change depending on the stage set up of the show, be sure to check on how your specific show will be set up before buying tickets. As an example, we saw U2 earlier this summer. The set up featured a long screen running down the center of the floor section. For that show, optimum seats would have been on the sides toward the back so you could see the full screen as well as the main stage.
The first concert was held at the arena on August 13, 1996. It was a private concert by Ray Charles, with a crowd of around 12,000. Each person in attendance was given a commemorative key showing that they helped “open” the center. The first public concert held there was Oasis on September 2nd of the same year.
Since its opening, the arena has been home to a number of famous (and infamous) shows. You’ll find banners hanging from the rafters acknowledging Billy Joel’s 48 Philadelphia sell outs, Bruce Springsteen’s 56 Philadelphia sell outs, and Pearl Jam’s “10 show” (which I was lucky enough to attend). On December 6, 2002, Guns N Roses was scheduled to visit the arena on their Chinese Democracy Tour. After the openers played, Guns N Roses never appeared, which led to a riot inside the arena that caused $30-40K worth of damage.
Tip #2: Like many venues, security getting into the Wells Fargo Center has increased over the years. Note that the lines to get through security can be quite long. Give yourself ample time to get in and get seated. Ladies – do yourself a favor and don’t take in a handbag unless absolutely necessary. It just slows down the line.
Tip #3: If you are looking to hang out before the show, just walk over to XFINITY Live. There are several places to grab food and drinks, including Victory Beer Hall and PBR Philly. There are great little areas to sit outside (including several fire pits if the weather is chilly), play corn hole, or just hang out with friends.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Grizzly Bear is based out of Brooklyn, NY. Formed in 2002, the band consists of Edward Droste (vocals, guitar, keyboards, omnichord), Daniel Rossen (vocals, guitar, banjo, keyboards), Chris Taylor (bass, backing vocals) and Christopher Bear (drums, backing vocals).
The band actually started as Droste’s solo project. Droste released the band’s debut album – Horn Of Plenty – in 2004. It was basically a solo album, although it did feature drummer Christopher Bear on some of the songs.
When Droste decided he actually needed a band to hit the road, he and Bear recruited Taylor. After playing a couple of shows, they added Rossen and the band was officially formed.
The “newly formed” Grizzly Bear released their first album together – Yellow House – in 2006. In 2008, Grizzly Bear got their first big break when they were asked by Radiohead to go out on the road with them.
Grizzly Bear released two more albums – Veckatimest in 2009 and Shields in 2012. After concluding their tour in support of Shields, the band took a break. Rossen hit the road in support of his solo work and his other band. The other guys temporarily went their separate ways.
In April of 2017, Grizzly Bear re-appeared by posting a short video clip on their Instagram account. The band announced that they had recorded a new album – Painted Ruins – which was released in August of 2017.
Grizzly Bear took the stage at about 7:15 p.m. Due to the fairly extravagant set up on the stage for Florence + The Machine, Grizzly Bear had to set up towards the front of the stage in a fairly compact space. The arena was still pretty empty at the beginning of their set, and the lighting used throughout was dark. Both of those things seemed to keep the energy level down during Grizzly Bear’s set.
I could definitely hear a Radiohead influence in a lot of their songs. They also had a couple of songs that were a bit heavier rock, which shows that the band has a lot of diversity in their music.
Droste and Rossen shared lead vocal duties throughout the set. Both have great voices, and I thought they were equally effective – whether singing together or solo.
Grizzly Bear would be great in a smaller venue. I felt they were a bit overwhelmed in an arena setting. While the music was great, the energy level wasn’t quite there to fill an arena. The guys thanked Florence + The Machine for the opportunity to open for them and play an arena. Droste stated that it was a good opportunity for them.
Grizzly Bear have a few shows on their calendar opening for Florence + The Machine. You can keep up with them at www.grizzly-bear.net.
FLORENCE + THE MACHINE
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Florence + The Machine is made up of lead singer Florence Welch and keyboardist Isabella Summers. They are joined by various other musicians, both on their studio work and on tour.
The name Florence + The Machine came about when Welch and Summers performed together as teenagers under the name Florence Robot/Isa Machine. The band officially formed in 2007. They released their debut studio album – Lungs – in 2009.
Lungs contained the smash hit “Dog Days Are Over”, which got huge radio play and put Florence + The Machine on the map. They followed up Lungs with the even more successful album – Ceremonials – which was released in 2011. The singles “What the Water Gave Me” and “Shake It Out” were huge commercial successes.
After the success of their first two albums, Florence + The Machine decided to take some time off before hitting the studio to record their third album. In 2014, How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful was released. That album contained another monster hit – “Ship to Wreck”.
Florence + The Machine’s fourth and most recent album – High As Hope – was released this past June.
Florence + The Machine took the stage just after 8:30 p.m. Florence Welch was wearing her signature shear dress and was barefooted. They opened their set with the song “June” off their new album, followed by the big hit off that same album – “Hunger”.
If you’ve never seen Florence + The Machine live, you are missing out. Florence is amazing to watch. As a friend described it, it’s almost like watching a nymph or fairy on the stage. She goes from tip toeing across the stage, to running around the arena, to spinning and thrashing around.
One of the most amazing things about Florence, however, is her voice. There is no denying she’s a powerhouse. Her vocals on the songs are so strong. And then she speaks in between songs, and has this tiny and almost timid voice that makes it hard to believe the same person is belting out the songs the way she does.
The other thing about Florence, is that she always has a strong message about hope and love. She admits that she is a bit of a hippie, and she’ll ask you to do things that you might not feel that comfortable doing during the show.
Before going into the song “South London Forever”, she explained how the song was about where she was from. She talked a bit about politics, stating that she was sorry about “the swamp” here, but acknowledging that things were no less complicated on her side of the pond.
Florence also talked about her heart hurting all the time for a lot of different reasons, but that she believes in love and asked that the audience not give up hope. She encouraged everyone that a revolution in consciousness starts with individuals, and then asked everyone to join hands and hold them up together, which played on the lyrics of the song “holding hands with someone I just met”.
When introducing the song “Patricia” off the new album, Florence shared that the song was about music legend Patti Smith, who had greatly influenced her and her writing. She clarified that there was a part in the middle that was not about Smith, but rather “toxic masculinity” as she put it.
One of the highlights of the show for me was when the band played their monster hit (and my personal favorite) “Dog Days Are Over”. As the song went on, Florence asked the audience for another favor. She asked everyone to put their phones away. I’ve seen lots of artists do that during their shows, but rarely have I seen an audience comply as much as they did at this show. I have to admit that I was broadcasting the song on Facebook Live, and I stopped and put my phone away mid-song.
While Florence herself is clearly the star of the show, the rest of Florence + The Machine are also very talented. That talent came out particularly on “The End of Love”, where the piano and vocal harmonies were absolutely beautiful.
Florence started the end of the main set with two hits – “Cosmic Love” and “Delilah”. During “Cosmic Love”, Florence asked the audience to turn on the flashlights on their phones to light up the arena with a star full of skies.
“Delilah” was probably the most fun song of the set. Florence jumped down off the stage onto the arena floor and took off in a full sprint. She continued to sing while walking through the middle of the packed floor to the thrill of her fans (and probable dismay of security).
The main set wrapped up with “What Kind of Man”, which featured Florence standing on top of the rail barrier in her bare feet. Again, the crowd was thrilled, and security was likely holding their breath as they stood behind her while she balanced herself on the rail.
After a short encore break, Florence started the encore with new song “Big God”, which is a strong and powerful song. She wrapped the show with the megahit “Shake It Out”.
In general, the show was very heavy with new songs. Of the 16 songs played, 7 were off the new album. Florence + The Machine’s set was only about 90 minutes. Personally, I would have liked them to play another 20 minutes and included some of the older songs that were left off the set list.
Despite the shorter set, Florence + The Machine is definitely a show worth catching. If you haven’t seen them in a while, check them out. Florence has clearly become a stronger performer over the years. She even admitted, that some of their early shows still featured her with no shoes, but she was a lot drunker and there was a lot more screeching.
Florence + The Machine have a handful of dates left on their North American tour before they head back to the UK in November. In January, they’ll be in Australia, followed by another visit to Europe in March. You can keep up with all of their tour dates on their website at www.florenceandthemachine.net.
Set List (click on any link to buy the song directly on Amazon): June, Hunger, Between Two Lungs, Only If For A Night, Queen Of Peace, South London Forever, Patricia, Dog Days Are Over, 100 Years, Ship To Wreck, The End Of Love, Cosmic Love, Delilah, What Kind Of Man Encore: Big God, Shake It Out
Are you a Florence + The Machine fan? Have you seen them in concert? Tell us about it! Comment below or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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