Monday, February 19, 2018
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Florence + the Machine fill the USF Sun Dome with drama and swagger

Like a rockin' descendant of the Bronte sisters, Florence Welch took the stage at the USF Sun Dome Tuesday with her red hair wrapped, her pale feet bare and pretty much the rest of her lanky frame frocked in a dress Jane Eyre would have considered stuffy.

And then she pogoed about as if she were giddily clad in cutoffs and a tee.

The 26-year-old Brit is a curious It Girl for sure, and yet the diverse crowd of 5,011 told the story of her success: college students and soccer moms, headbangers and wallflowers.

Her 90-minute set proved as varied as her loyalists, from ornate opener Only If for a Night to pounding rave-up Spectrum, which featured four disco balls glittering up the newly renovated venue.

Coming from London, by way of some misty Tolkienesque fairyland, Florence + the Machine (nine cogs in the Machine, by the way) blend fantasy and reality, Joan of Arc girl power and open-vein honesty.

The group's two major-label albums were reportedly built via heartache, and hoo boy, can Welch unload the sadness, her octave-spanning derring-do used to the same arena-rocking effect as an Eddie Van Halen guitar solo.

Her voice is all parts Bjork, Grace Slick and an air siren, a truly remarkable device that also has a legitimate soul-singer burn — Aretha Franklin in Wonderland. She doesn't oversing; instead she carefully paints her pictures, waiting, waiting, and then ... KAPOW.

Welch swapped great amounts of drama (she first appeared as a pained silhouette behind a vintage 1920s Hollywood backdrop) with loads of swagger, delicate baroque flourishes on a giant golden harp giving way to the heart-attack percussion of Drumming Song, which built to a furious, bonfire close.

She could be aloof and melodramatic -- and then break into a grin. "It's about time we make a few sacrifices," she said heavily, "and by that I mean human." But what she really wanted was for the dudes to "raise up" their dates.

"We want to see as many people on shoulders as possible," she said, breaking into the defibriliffic Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up).

This was the second big-time show for the "new" Sun Dome, which looks downright lovely after undergoing $36 million in renovations.

Elton John grand-opened the joint on Sept. 14, and although the Rocket Man's gig was superb, the traffic and crowd management was often a mess.

But things flowed much better on Tuesday, and as a result, the crowd was louder, looser and thoroughly in love with the lady onstage.

Welch felt the affection, too — especially when someone in the front row handed her a bunch of homemade crowns, which she handed out to her mates.

Overjoyed, Welch said, "Turn to each other, shake each other's hands, embrace each other!"

A group hug? At a rock concert? That's so Flo.

Sean Daly can be reached at [email protected] Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.

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