How a Lyrical Fairy Goddess Revived a Dead Heart in Brooklyn
Ever felt like not feeling? Like numbness is the answer? Sometimes the world just blasts you with crazy cannons of hate, violence, and senseless mayhem. It seems at times like these that hearts were merely made for pumping blood to and fro. But then you find yourself in line with thousands of other dead-eyed, hopeless humans. It’s June 15, 2016 outside Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Murmurs fill the empty air around you, saying “I really need this tonight,” or “She just makes me feel better,” and, “Finally, finally I can just relax and have a good time,” and you realize it sounds like they’re talking about love. This gives you the tiniest thrill. You look up from your phone for a second and glimpse your reflection standing in line in the mirrored blackness of the Barclay Center’s glass doors. It looks as if you might need this too.
The empty stadium feels sterile and vast at first, like a gym before they put up prom decorations, but soon it’ll be teaming with dead-eyed fun-seekers like yourself. So, you take a place right up front by the stage. It was the smartest choice you made for this venture, buying a General Admission ticket. The best way to get the whole experience of the show is to dance among the people on the floor, not sit like a lump in stodgy seats above. Everybody around you appears paired off but for a needy third wheel in a threesome with two hot guys. No matter how many beers she trots up and down those cement stadium steps to fetch for them, the cute boys only whisper in each other’s ears. You wink at her and she half smiles back. It’s your first victory of the night. You can almost feel a pulse start humming at your wrist.
Funny thing is you actually came tonight for the opening act. She’s been hogging your playlist for months! Grimes, a ferocious pixie with mighty synthesizers, poetic lyrics, and savage music videos. A bit more avant garde than most, Grimes has such unique style because she completely controls her sound. She got her start fiddling around with GarageBand at home in her spare time, then found her way to MySpace and eventually put her sound out in the wide world while still somehow remaining an innocent, untouched, creative soul. She’s just a youngling with some synthesizers, cool dancers, and a bone to pick with every damn thing. That’s what you love about her the most, she’s mad as hell and not gonna take it anymore, one song at a time. Even her happiest songs talk of death and apocalyptic events but perhaps this part is just a natural outcropping of anyone who reads the news these days. You’re not sure… but you love that Grimes isn’t numb to it like you are.
She’s got loads to say and owns the stage like a pro. Her dancers spin and float as the stadium pounds out the sound in throbbing waves that flow through the soles of your shoes and deep into your veins. Grimes belts out forty minutes of fire until you’re jumping and singing with her irresistible mixes, along with the hardcore light show. You’re smiling. You feel alive. That heart you’d been ignoring for so long is pumping like crazy. In the meantime, while Grimes tears the stadium walls down, the seats begin to fill with eager faces, many of them wearing flower crowns. Ordinarily you’d probably think these are a tad ridiculous. But now that Grimes has turned on your heartlight, they merely seem whimsical and fitting for the evening. The truth of how befitting they are resounds when Florence Welch takes the stage. She’s a flowy enchantress reminiscent of Stevie Nicks but somehow also completely of-the-moment.
Before tonight your only real experience of Florence and the Machine was limited to her two most popular songs — “Dogs Days are Over” and “Ship to Wreck” — which are lovely, but it’s already nine fifteen and you consider leaving. I mean, you’re not really the biggest fan and gotta get up early in the morning. But fact is, you’re already here and super close to the stage to boot. Why not just have some fun and see what happens? Some of the best nights of your life have followed that question. So, you stay. You take a look around the stadium and realize you’re surrounded by thousands of true believers. Magic is about to happen; that much is clear. Because it turns out Florence is a magician and everyone in the room already knows this. Everyone but you, grasshopper. But as soon as this goddess takes the stage you know it too. Florence masters the entire stadium when she floats out to grace you with her artistry. Nobody can look away. Immediately, she owns every ounce of your attention and, in a matter of moments, all your affection too.
Her songs reach deep inside you with such a rich, strong voice and lyrics that it feels like a haven; a place you’ve always belonged. These are your people. This is your home. You’re swept into the music and wish you knew all the lyrics to sing along with the thousands that surround you. In fact, many times you find yourself singing anyway, even though you’re obviously wrong about the words. You don’t care; it feels so right. A lot of the songs are about love and Florence talks about it too. She tells a story about writing the title song from her new album “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful” while on a plane and falling in love. It was the kind of love, she explains, that makes you fall in love with everyone. Sometimes love can be so overwhelming it just bleeds into everything and suddenly because of the music and the thousands around, you know exactly what she means. In fact, this is how you feel right now. You’re enveloped by men and women who have their arms outstretched toward Florence and tears streaming down their cheeks. It’s a freaking lovefest in here and about to get even more so. You look away from the stage for a moment and see the audience feeling the affection. Then you notice the third wheel getting into it even though her hot guys are now full on making out, lost in their own world.
Florence and the Machine draw from all three albums with a range of passion and particulars so familiar and perfect you can’t help but dance. Thoughts play through your mind aroused by her moving and insightful lyrics so that you even fit in a bit of therapeutic success overcoming heartbreaks from the days of yore. But that momentarily selfish lapse passes quickly when Florence trails a rainbow flag back and forth while crossing the stage to sing “Spectrum” from her album Ceremonials. The song’s refrain says, As every color illuminates/We are shining/And we will never be afraid again, which creates a beautiful anthem for “Love is Love” which she chants right after the song, bringing you into an inspiring shared feeling of unity and community with the whole of Barclays. Florence reminds you that there’s only one way to overcome hatred and that’s to overwhelm it with love. “You all are capable of such giving,” she says and she knows this because of how she made you feel tonight. “Now you have to go out there into the world and outnumber the haters with your love”. The only way to do this is to love as much and as many as possible in order to save this world. You have to take all that love you’re holding inside and give it away one person at a time, creating a chain reaction.
“Let’s start right here and right now,” she adds. Then Florence directs everyone in the stadium to hug each other. “Every single one of us needs to share our love right now,” she declares. It’s an easy task for pretty much everybody in attendance, except of course, you and the third wheel. As everyone else pairs off with tight hugs throughout the stadium, you eye each other. Then you outstretch your arms and she does too. You come together for an embrace and while gently pulling apart, you both smile. It’s a miracle, really, what Florence did here. She created spontaneous affection between strangers. A true artist, songs aren’t her only form of magic at this enchanting show. Effortless Florence floated across the stage with a power that enraptured and inspired you all evening so that you left the Barclay Center overcome with emotion and admiration. Your heart has never felt so certain and strong. You walk to the train afterward and search Florence and The Machine on your phone’s iTunes app when you hear a tiny white-haired lady nearby also coming out of the concert. She links arms with her husband and sums up the night perfectly saying, “Florence sang the shit out that stadium tonight, honey”. It’s so true, you can’t wait to get home and blast your walls to bits with that very voice. First song on tap?