Florence + The Machine @ The Sidney Myer Music Bowl

I sadly missed out on the last time Florence + The Machine came to town about three years ago, so it was a thrill to see my favourite barefoot flame-haired pagan priestess live again.

I’ve never been a huge fan of The Sidney Myer Music Bowl, and always tried to get allocated seating tickets in the past, but this time around my Mum and I made do with the picnic blanket on the grassy slope. Though it rained in the morning, it ceased by the end of the day, and at one point the miserable grey skies suddenly broke out in a glorious sunset that bathed the natural amphitheatre and the city behind it in golden light.

Marlon Williams, the supremely talented Kiwi-turned-Melbournian, played the supporting slot and hopefully converted some new fans with his impeccable showmanship and mesmerising voice. It’s just a shame that, from where I was sitting, the more delicate songs and vocal nuances got lost in the crowd chatter. Sometimes it sucks being a kind of person who’s easily affected by the outside noise, and from my end, the worst thing about a live concert is invariably other people around me. This time, our immediate neighbours were a bunch of loud Aussie bogans, and one particular guy whose nasal Aussie twang was like fingernails on chalkboard. Aaaaaargh!

Once Florence hit the stage, the audience was up on their feet, and I had a chance to get away from the source of annoyance (I felt a bit bad leaving Mum behind, but she assured me that she wasn’t bothered by the loud bogans). My mood improved by tenfold and I could now really get into the show. I’ve seen Florence twice before, and she remains the same ethereal, otherworldly creature live, twirling and running across the stage like a woman possessed in a flowing transparent peach dress. Maybe it was just my imagination, but I thought that the stage set was meant to evoke some ancient Roman ruins.

Florence’s powerhouse vocals, which amazingly never dipped despite all the energetic running around, were a stark contrast to her soft-spoken interactions with the crowd. At one point she warned us that this was an active show; she asked for the crowd to hold hands for one song, hug a random stranger before another, and put away the phones to create a pure unrecorded moment. This was all too hippy-dippy for me and I abstained from hugs and handholding, but still, coming from Florence the sentiments were charming rather than annoying.

With four albums under her belt it was inevitable that some big favourites were going to be a no-show and I was especially sorry they gave What the Water Gave Me a miss, but it was easily compensated by the other oldies like Dog Days Are Over, and excellent new material. The soaring South London Forever, a standout from the latest album, was my personal highlight of the night, and I enjoyed the brand new song, a soulful number called Moderation. Here’s to ten more years of fabulous Florence + The Machine gigs.

P.S. Dear Sidney Myer Music Bowl and other concert organisers, can we please double, triple, quadruple the number of the female toilets at the venue. The difference between the long female queues and non-queues for blokes is really bloody obvious to anyone with eyeballs.

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