Florence Welch has been there and done that in her (relatively) short career. She’s won an Ivor Novello award, she’s headlined Glastonbury festival, and she’s toured arenas consistently for the last five years, so you’d forgive her for phoning it in on one of her smallest dates on the High as Hope tour in Brighton. Never one to not put in 100%, however, she provided her adoring fans with an iconic greatest hits display and, in the process, showcased her beautiful, heart-rendering vocals and magnetic stage presence.
Throughout her 16-song set, which spanned nine years and all four records, Florence Welch and her brilliant band stamped their authority on the occasion and defined themselves as true pop icons. Florence is an emotional performer, who clearly lives for the moment, and she wraps you into her tumultuous lyricism with a compassionate ease. An old school entertainer in every sense of the word, she’s just about on her way to becoming pop royalty.
Beforehand, however, there was the prospect of Brooklyn indie-pop group Wet, who provided support. With two albums already under their belt – the most recent record Still Run dropped in July – they provided a confident and assured opening of polished pop. Performing the likes of debut album opener ‘It’s All in Vain’ and new cut ‘11 Hours’, as well as mentioning their performance at The Great Escape festival, the crowd warmed to the band more and more as their set continued.
This night was all about Florence and co. though, and certainly a celebration of their 2018 Mercury Prize-nominated record High as Hope. Opening with the first two tracks of that record – which we called “By far her most important album” – ‘June’ and ‘Hunger’, it was a wistful beginning to what would go onto become a euphoric night. ‘Hunger’, in particular, is a beautiful soaring track which, quite impressively, evokes the great Kate Bush. There’s a distinct nature of the legendary pop artiste when she rockets into: “Tell me what you need, oh, you look so free” and, with Florence twirling and flowing across the stage, she arouses the wonderful ‘Wuthering Heights’ too.
A mid-set highlight comes from mega-single ‘Dog Days Are Over’ where Florence urges everyone to put their phones away. Dutifully agreeing to their idol, its jubilant chorus is made all the more personal and intimate as the entire standing section pogo’ed and screamed along in unison to the iconic 2010 single. Elsewhere, 2015 album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful got its moment in the spotlight with the fast-paced ‘Ship to Wreck’ causing one of the biggest singalongs of the night and ‘What Kind of Man’s stuttered opening creating a genuine spectacle.
After running through the entire crowd, the band came back for an encore of ‘Big God’ and ‘Shake it Out’. With glitter dropping from the ceiling and Florence cutting a messianic figure, this looked and felt like a religious gathering and, on a Sunday, what more could you possibly want? “You need a big god / Big enough to fill you up” Florence crooned on the encore track and, satisfyingly so, she took on the mantle for the many, many happy people who left the Brighton Centre on Sunday night.