Florence & The Machine @ SSE Arena 9/9/15

On Wednesday the How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful Tour kicked off in my hometown of Belfast. Getting a chance to see the gig at the very last minute was brilliant because it’s my first time seeing Florence & The Machine live (finally!). How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful is also my favourite of her three albums which was just a bonus. And on top of everything else I thought she was mesmerising at Glastonbury. My expectations for her couldn’t have been higher and, simply, she was everything I could have hoped for and then some. She was spellbinding.

Before I get sidetracked by all things Florence though, I have to commend the support act, The Staves. They’re three English sisters who perform folk-rock music. Their strong point lies in their harmonies though – when they sang together, it was stunning. Their forty-five minute set was bookended by acapella segments which were spine-tingling. They could have quite easily performed forty five minutes of their acapellas and still be as good. They were a very fitting way to open a Florence & The Machine gig and I daresay many of the fans who will be attending the tour will thoroughly enjoy them. They’ve released two full length albums so far and I’ll definitely be checking those out very soon.

Then, at 9pm, the glaring SSE arena lights give way to thundering screams. My seats were perfect and as they were situated to the right of the stage, beside the steps, I could even see Florence walking on. The atmosphere when she walked on, all resplendent and regal, was electric. She has an extremely captivating presence and you can definitely see the influence of Stevie Nicks on her stage presence.

Musically, she began – exactly like Glastonbury 2015 – with one of my favourite songs by her, ‘What The Water Gave Me’. It is a rather unusual opening song but it works in that capacity in a really strange way. Exactly like Glastonbury ‘Ship To Wreck’ followed that which left the crowd dizzy with excitement

Overall the set list was quite similar, but not identical, to her Glastonbury 2015 headlining show. The running order was a bit different, last night her main set ended with ‘Dog Days Are Over’ instead of it being in the encore. The encore last night consisted of ‘Long & Lost’ (which she didn’t do at Glastonbury), ‘What Kind Of Man’ and ‘Drumming Song’. The only other song that she did last night but not at Glastonbury was ‘Mother’. Of course she didn’t cover Foo Fighter’s ‘Times Like These’ last night like she did at Glastonbury but that’s hardly surprising.

As a performer she is simply incredible though and doesn’t receive enough praise. She’s so elegant and graceful yet there’s just the right amount of manic athleticism in her performances. She’s very intense to watch (in a great way) and she pours every last drop of her energy into her performances. For instance, she had two large platforms at each side of the stage so she could interact with those of us in the tiers at either side of the arena. She ran between them at breakneck speed. She also ran down to the very back of the standing area extremely quickly and she sang a portion of a song to the fans at the very back rows. I thought that was very sweet and considerate. Her crowd interaction all night was fantastic. She came across so warm and just very likable, and very funny too. In all honesty, she was faultless. I have five gigs coming up before the year is out and it will take something special to top Florence Welch!