In a music industry that’s still, sadly, dominated by men, Florence + the Machine’s British Summer Time gig was an all day celebration of female empowerment.
The run up to Florence’s headline set was supported by a host of British talent. Geordie legend Nadine Shah took an early slot, stunning on stage in a stylish suit dress and tore up some absolute moves in between her amazing vocal performances, whilst the super talented Lykke Li brought out chart topping bangers like ‘Late Night Feelings’ and ‘I Follow Rivers’. Over on the smaller Barclays stage, the youthful Let’s Eat Grandma buzzed around the stage like hyper kids at a birthday party, doing the Macarena and running off and on stage, whilst simultaneously performing to a superb musical standard that most certainly displayed their immense talent.
Heading back over to the main stage, Devonté Hynes’ Blood Orange performed their first UK show since last October, playing with two stunning vocalists against the backdrop of powerful videography. Later, The National prepared the crowd for Florence with their set of melancholy melodies, with lead singer Matt Berninger spending more time in the crowd than he did on the stage. Heralded as one of Florence Welch’s favourite bands, the band captivated the audience with a set that sadly left out heart wrenching ‘About Today’, but still warmed audience heart strings in preparation for the emotional onslaught of Florence + the Machine.
Prancing onto the Great Oak stage in a bohemian maxi dress with no shoes Florence Welch joins her band on stage a little after half past eight. Instantly captivating the crowd, the ethereal Florence whispers “hello London: and receives a wave of cheers in return. The beautiful tree lined main stage at BST featured romantic imagery of Florence herself running through flowers of flora, and the backdrop created a pastel glow around the wild haired Welch. Opening with High As Hope’s ‘June’ then powering into ‘Hunger’, their set energetically bounces between slow and moody ballads and uncontained pop excitement.
The importance of women in today’s line up doesn’t go unmentioned. “Welcome to the matriarchy”, Florence exclaims, “it’s fun!” Excitedly, she tells us that the line up is made up of 70% women, and eagerly requests that we see this in other areas of life. Whilst the crowd feels an equal split between men and women, fans at the barrier seem to be a whole host of bohemian dressed, flower crown wearing young women, gleaming with love for their talented queen. Love is very much a theme of the concert, “it’s such a wonderful thing to love”, Florence announces before launching into ‘Dog Days’. Midway through her arguably most famous song, she requests that everyone put their phone away and live in the moment, asking us to embrace friends, lovers and strangers stood beside us. Hyde Park truly bustles with love and adoration. Welch requests that with their last chorus we all throw our issues up into the sky, an act which is done by a sea of devise-free hands.
Midway through the set, the landscape around us becomes a bright lilac sunset, mottled with bright white clouds. Welch thanks the crowd and London itself, commenting on the past 10 years of her wonderful career. She mentions that at the beginning, they’d play five shows a week in whichever pub that would have them, desperate to get this wonderful music out there. Her debut, Lungs celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2019, and in that time the band have stunned with Ceremonials, How Big, How Beautiful and High as Hope. She may have been performing for over a decade, but during final song ‘Shake It Out’, she reminds us that she’s never too old or too famous to crowd surf, flying into the crowd to the desperate adoration of her hordes of fans. All in all, a wonderful day that celebrated both love and female equality- a display of how the music industry should be moving forward in 2019.