Culture, Music, News

Florence and The Machine @ AO Arena Manchester review – catharsis at its finest

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Featured image: Press – Chuff Media

“Manchester on a Friday night – this is going to be so fun,” gushed Florence Welch to a packed-out AO Arena. She’s not wrong of course, if there’s anywhere that knows how to bring the energy – Manchester is it.

Surrounded by glistening chandeliers and bathed in white light, Welch opened the show with ‘Heaven is Here’ and ‘King’ from the 2022 record Dance Fever before ramping up the energy with the older ‘Ship To Wreck’.

She spent much of the evening as a blur of white fabric, twirling about the stage in a pair of chunky black pumps – the only dead giveaway that she broke her ankle on the first half of the Dance Fever UK tour back in November.

Connection and the idea of being close to everybody else in the room have been a huge part of Florence and The Machine shows for a long time and on this evening, it was no different. The singer is one of those that likes to feel close to her audience, perhaps most obvious when she came down to the barrier during ‘Dream Girl Evil’ to sing into the face of an adoring fan.

A lot of Welch’s music consists of hard-hitting lyricism about her personal struggles. There’s clearly a lot of catharsis taking place in every room she plays these songs in.

‘Hunger’ and ‘Morning Elvis’ provide an emotional few moments as hundreds of women in the room embraced their friends while Welch sang about her struggle with an eating disorder and substance abuse issues respectively. She has created a space in which people feel safe enough to express their vulnerabilities alongside her, which is a brief reminder of why live music is so important. 

‘You’ve Got The Love’ followed on and the entire arena erupted with a huge fizz of energy, the joy in the room was at an infectious level and for this latter portion of the set it was hard to stand still. 

The end of the night was fast approaching and Florence took the time to reminisce on a show the band played in Manchester back in 2006 at the iconic Deaf Institute, laughing about how they ended up in some student halls.

Fans were treated to a performance of ‘Never Let Me Go’, an old favourite that had made a glorious return to the set just for this tour. Very suddenly the singer made a call for ‘human sacrifices’, a request that would send a wave of panic through anybody not familiar with the rituals of a F&TM show. Except it’s only the cue for the audience to clamber onto the shoulders of their mates for the night’s closing tune, ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)’ and what’s a better way to kickstart a weekend of fun in the city than that?

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Minty Slater Mearns

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