Florence Welch doesn’t look like a rockstar when she’s not flying around the stage. Yet, the woman who’s been chosen to replace the word’s greatest rock band also had Bonnaroo’s best set.
Welch probably wouldn’t turn your head if she passed you on the street, but her voice is impossible to ignore.
The London singer/songwriter took to the Bonnaroo main stage before festival closer Billy Joel. Sandwiched among larger-than-life headliners like Marcus Mumford, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, Kendrick Lamar, and of course Billy Joel, Welch’s humble approach shined. The singer looked in awe during the applause after every song. Her career hasn’t lacked success by any means, but she still seemed surprised that so many would turn out to see her at a 7 o’clock headlining spot.
Although humble, Welch displayed her quiet confidence as she sprinted across the stage, barefoot, and down the rocky aisles into the crowd, all the while showcasing her powerhouse vocals. Clad in John Lennon-like drapey white shirt and pants, she smiled graciously after every song, catching her breath from her sprinter performance during each song.
Florence Welch is our generation’s Stevie Nicks. The music moves her just as much as she moves the music. Every second of her performance was spiritual. Welch can even turn playing tambourine into a religious experience (I wrote that exact sentence after seeing Fleetwood Mac this year). Hell, she apparently even started a witches coven while at school. The similarities are getting uncanny aren’t they?
But, Welch is also powerful enough to stand on her own without any comparison. Her music can stand on its own without comparison. As can her performances. The same crowd that had seen Bleachers or Twenty One Pilots or even Billy Joel knew all the words to her hits like “Dog Days are Over” and “Shake it Off.” The show turned into one of the world’s most positive dance party during the latter and one of Florence’s best, “Ship to Wreck.”
Her latest material, though, may be her most touching and sincere. Still, it doesn’t lack melodic hooks, and her set proved that the songs have enough life in them to have serious staying power. “What Makes a Man” is the perfect sassy, mid-tempo power ballad. The EDM hit “Sweet Nothings” was dressed up as a gorgeous acoustic-based ballad, that ditched the laptop for harp.
Everything seems better and lighter for Welch, who cut her drinking during the recording of the latest album. She floats around stage instead of battling demons and one word that her performance continually conjured was empowerment. She even made the day of an audience member holding a “hugs?” sign, by telling her that if she could get to the stage she could have that hug, which then became two.
Florence Welch is a new kind of rockstar. She may be the closest thing to Stevie Nicks our generation has seen, but she’s her own artist. She’s a rockstar on her own terms. She doesn’t need the meat dresses of Gaga, the electronica of her fellow pop darlings, the guitar rock of the Foo Fighters. Florence and the Machine relies on Florence Welch simply being herself. She may seem an unlikely candidate, but there’s no doubt that Florence Welch is one of the world’s greatest rockstars.