Florence Welch picks up a champagne glass and takes a sip before returning to the microphone, her throne.
‘That’s pure vodka by the way’ she adds.
It was her, all her: voice, mic, the magnificent Opera House backdrop – they were all meant to be there. In contrast, the crowd is a delighted accident.
She floats onto the stage for the first time in a cream coloured Victorian gown with flowery lace patterns and puffy sleeves, her signature soft red hair framing her face. It’s as though the crowd was holding their breath, waiting for her.
Did it matter that the songs were composed a little differently to suit the orchestra that accompanied her in place of her usual Machine band? A little, but only in that it resulted in a kind of stunned confusion at the now unfamiliar terrain that her voice was headed for. I still sat forward with my face cupped in my hands, mouth slightly agape, staring like a child seeing the stars for the first time. I looked at my buddy and she was doing the same.
Florence’s voice carried the entire concert; hypnotic, ethereal and powerful. Like hymns in a cathedral we worshipped her. Your eyes couldn’t help but follow her every move and if she left the stage momentarily because of a technical problem, your heart sank, despair kicking in, waiting for her to reappear again. The moment she did return, you instantly felt your mood change back to unbridled happiness.
The first time I heard their album, I remember going home and writing thousands of words. I didn’t know at the time that I was writing the beginning of a novel, I just created some crazy arse world with characters lifted straight from my imagination and Flo was there, singing the soundtrack to that other world. Her songs brought them to life, particularly Cosmic Love and The Drumming Song. Needless to say I adored her rendition of these songs. The Drumming Song with its earth shattering notes and satisfying crescendos and Cosmic Love, another winner in the Opera House with Flo proclaiming she ‘wrote this one when she was hungover’.
Similarly I recall attending a random house party with some friends and taking over their iPod music in our kitchen. ‘Dog Days’ came on, and just like that, a spell was cast on us (hey it has a harp and a clapping pattern, that’s a cult right there). Arms flailing, legs taking us to every part of the house as the party attendees stared at us in disbelief, mainly because they weren’t sure who we were and how we knew the owners of the house. We danced and sang in a kind of manic moment that can never be repeated for as long as we live (although we tried to repeat it on Saturday – not quite the same). It should come as no surprise that one of our dancing entourage members passed out later in the living room hugging a disco ball.
The harp signalled that Dog Days had arrived at the Opera House as Flo cued the harp man in via an elegant curtsey, spreading out her long limbs in a graceful gesture. That’s all it took for the crowd to go wild. She gave us permission to stand up from our seats but I was already on my feet.
‘I feel like you should be sober in the Opera House though’, she added, her cool, casual tone making it seem as though she was just one of your friends who happened to be on stage. Then time stands still and you realise where you are. It’s hard to wake up from that kind of reverie. Some of us never do.