Entering the venue you could feel the excitement forming, the queue at the merch stand was at least six deep back towards the entrance of the BIC. I looked around as I entered and saw a number of people with the floral head crowns akin to one of Florence’s many looks. As I took my seat in the balcony there was already a sizeable crowd that had formed to enjoy the delights of Willie J Healey.
Dressed in a black suit and white tee, I catch the set as Willie wigs out with the band during the Jamie T penned single ‘Thank You’ – this tune is one funky little number, definitely wrap your ears around it if you haven’t done so already. Unfortunately the Wimbledon Womble wasn’t here this evening but you can’t have everything, right!
Willie has a long list of admirers including Joe Talbot, Orlando Weeks and obviously both Florence and Jamie T. The new album from Willie J Healey is out in August of this year and I’m very much looking forward to hearing what its got to offer.
It feels that Willie has this vibe of knowing that most people are here for Flo, very modest in how he introduces his tracks throughout but really this guy can command many of venue on his own and has done.
After Willie has finished his set the crew begin to dress the stage for Florence’s imminent appearance. From a distance in the balcony it looks as though it is some form of ice kingdom with a shiny white floor, that is being swept of defects. I’m sure this will begin to come alive once the show begins. The front row/barrier huggers are again full of floral crown adorned fans. The age range of the crowd is something that surprises me such is the appeal of Florence’s music.
The lights go down and there is a pure beam of white light that begins to emanate from the the back of the stage, blinding to an extent, before Flo entered to pure adulation and screams from the crowd. Florence moves straight into ‘Heaven Is Here’ a single from the latest album ‘Dance Fever’, ‘King’ and ‘Ship To Wreck’ – that’s a pretty fine trio to open a show!
Florence conducts the crowd into screams during ‘Dog Days Are Over’ and after the track welcomes everyone to the show giving thanks for waiting for her to play – after she broke her foot onstage during the first night of the tour in November – Florence also gives thanks to those of whom its their first time at a F +TM gig, those whose second , third, fourth gig it is and those who have just come along to keep someone else company.
Florence makes her first foray into the crowd during ‘Dream Girl Evil’ and sings the beginning of the song with a crowd member whilst they are holding one another before then moving off to stand in the middle of the barriers with fans mesmerised by her every move. Florence’s vocal range is magnificently displayed all evening and this is just another example of that.
There was pure sentiment displayed before ‘Morning Elvis’ with Florence explaining that if only she knew when she wrote the song around lockdown that we would coming back to sing it through that lived experience and something that big.
The Candi Staton penned cover ‘You Got the Love’ draws an almighty buzz within the crowd, as expected, with Florence then making her way out into the middle of the standing crowd to sing ‘Choreomania’ – I love how there is this trust and respect within the crowd to not encroach on Florence’s space.
After speaking at the beginning of the gig requesting for the crowd not to use their phones to record videos for the later but to be more in the now, Florence asks the crowd to light up the venue during ‘Cosmic Love’ which que’s a wave of phones appearing throughout the crowd. During ‘My Love’ the crowd get as low as they possibly can to the floor and then begin to jump which quite impressive to see from the balcony.
Florence and her machine leave the stage before returning for a a three song encore – Florence shares that with the next song ’Never Let Me Go’ she vowed never to pay live again about 10 years ago as it reminded her of a time in her life where she was still drinking and processing things. The fact that the fans had continued to play and interact with the song had enable her to see it in a different light to now be able to bring it back to the live set. The near two hour set is closed with a personal favourite ’Shake It Out’ and the crowd pleaser ‘Rabbit Heart’ bringing the evening to a splendid end.
There are few voices that transpire from record to the live environment and a Florence is blessed to be a recipient of one of those. Whether you like the style of music, there is no denying how magnificent that voice is of Florence’s. It’s spine tingling to say the least and I for one had many of those moments throughout this gig.