Florence Welch, The Machine, Kamasi Washington, and thousands of adoring fans assembled last night at Barclays Center for the Brooklyn stop on the “High as Hope” Tour. The show was all Florence — no projections, simple lighting cues, and a wide stage with plenty of room for prancing and spinning and dashing from side to side. The booming, anthemic music of F+TM — offset with those inimitably quiet, upper-octave moments of reflection — makes for an incredible arena show. It’s loud, it’s bright, and it’s invigorating.
Mid-way through the concert, Florence welcomed Patty Smith to “join us in spirit;” the author had once told her that whenever she performs the song “Patricia,” she will be present and listening. The song is sung to Patty Smith (with one notable interlude as an exception), celebrating the ethos of creative freedom and optimism that she embodies — “having a reverence for the joys of life and the simple pleasure of living and making art,” as Welch said of Smith in a recent interview. The heart of the song is the lead-in to the chorus, where Florence quotes a line from Smith’s “M Train” telling her that “all doors are open to the believer.” Florence repeats back three times: “I believe her.”
The live version of “Patricia” was a scaled-back, almost meditative take on the song, Florence raising her right fist as she sang, “I believe her.” The added significance of the phrase was not lost on the crowd, cheers ensuing in recognition of its #metoo implications.
Which brings us to that short interlude in the song that isn’t directed to Patty Smith. Florence stepped forward to the edge of the stage, defiantly belting out:
Well, you're a 'real man', and you do what you can
You only take as much as you can grab with two hands
With your big heart, you praise God above
But how's that working out for you, honey?
Do you feel loved?
It’s a 180 degree turn from the heartfelt and honest devotion to making things and creating art: the taking, the blustering, the externalizing, the moralizing of a society that has condoned and celebrated toxic masculinity. The complicated cultural moment we’re living in is boiled down to a simple struggle between the instinct to nurture vs. the impulse to consume.
The song closes with a plaintive refrain, sung ten times: “You remind me that / it’s such a wonderful thing to love.” The crowd joined in; the lyric seemed almost like an incantation.