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High as Hope Tour: Florence's return to UK arenas

Ethereal indie rock band Florence and the Machine make their return to UK arenas with the High as Hope Tour.

Having hinted at the reveal of the new album after their How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful Tour in 2016, Florence Welch soon got to work to create what can only be described as an eclectic mix of soul-moving ballads and melodies for their fourth album High as Hope.

Kicking off the tour with a night at Leeds First Direct Arena, Florence and the Machine certainly gave their all for fans old and new.

Preceded by alt-R&B band, Wet, this duo gracefully set a haunting tone with a performance of their second album Still Run. Quiet and gentle with some minor crescendo’s sprinkled in, the Brooklynites soothed the ever-growing audience in preparation for the wave of noise and vibrato that Florence would soon bring to the stage.

Half an hour of stage fumbling later and the lights rise to reveal, surprisingly, a very humble set. Wooden panels and hanging cloth overhead. Simple, as to not hinder the presence of the band itself. The spotlights focus and Welch takes her place, looks out to her spectators and falls into June, the albums leading song.

The lyrics begin with "the show was ending", but it had hardly even begun for a spectacle that removed the audience from the distraction of phones and time-keeping.

As June concludes and the drums start to crash, Welch slowly moves from centre stage and violently twirls and jumps. She appears like a woman possessed by the music. A slightly jarring sight to those who are new to her stage act, but expected from those who are familiar with the exuberance of her performances, carefree and wild.

Flowing from one High As Hope rhythm to another, Welch reaches out to the audience and sings a succession of "oh's", bringing in Hunger. A song initially created as a poem, describing the struggle of searching for love where there is none. Welch forms a choir from her audience whilst she prowls the stage.

Proceeding this, another collection of tunes from the band's newest album are bellowed before Welch takes a moment to address her spectators with thank you's, blessing's and well wishes for their futures, like a cooing mother. Her heart hurts she says, for the younger generations and the strife of today that many face, hoping that she can in someway fade away those problems for the time being.

Welch then requests for everyone to embrace, share the love and hold hands as she slips into South London Forever. Florence and the Machine's earlier albums were produced and performed during a time of alcohol-induced partying. It can be heard in their music from the bombastic, slightly rock style from tunes like Kiss with a Fist or Girl with One Eye.

Having moved on from that era of their career, High as Hope and especially South London Forever emulates a keen sense of home, Welch's home in particular. The lyrics romantically describe the singer's youth, sharing memories with the listener's.

The viewers wait in anticipation for the band to throw in one of their crowd-pleasing hits and just as expected, the familiar thrum of a ukelele can be heard and everyone screams for Dog Days Are Over. 

From their first album Lungs, this song has remained as one of the band's most widely known and loved hits. It really showcases the sheer talent and range of Welch's vocals going from loud bellows and shouts to ringing, operatic notes coming together with catchy lyrics.

Another brief pause between songs and Welch politely asks for the audience to raise their lighters and phone torches. Everyone obeys and an arena of make-shift stars appear. The harp twinkles and the vocals begin. Cosmic Love from their debut album. Crashes of drums and flowing string instruments compliment the wild movements and long, floaty vocals.

The final song, What Kind of Man is another loud and beating rhythm. A lot of excitement is drawn from the crowd as Welch leaves the stage to join her spectators for a bit of headbanging and dancing, before wishing them goodnight and abruptly disappearing backstage, only to return for the obligatory encore.

What other tune could the band have performed but Shake It Off? Another top hit full of singing with careless abandon and vigorous jumping. A fantastic choice to conclude such a thrilling performance.

Florence and the Machine's music has been in the hearts and ears of fans for a long decade and it's wonderful to see how they have changed throughout. The High as Hope Tour truly takes people to the centre of Welch's vision as an incredible performer and artist. Unique and unassuming, this tour is sure to lift spirits and bring people together.

Featured image: Christian Bertrand / Shutterstock.com

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