The Weeknd and Florence + the Machine hit the stage on Friday night at Shoreline Amphiteater with HUGE aniticipation. Some might think of it as an unlikely duo to be on tour together, but personally, I think they fit just right together. The mood of both their music is dark, soulful and romantic. They also both have a wide vocal range that just pulls you in when you listen. Lastly, I find that both Abel Tesfaye (the Weeknd) and Florence Welch have a strange mystery about them: I’m not sure if it’s the mood of their music, or their writing styles, but I am drawn in to the way they share their tales of love and lust in a open and upfront way. Several artists tell their stories with a veil of caution and discreetness, but not these two. Songs like The Weeknds “Loft Music” and Florence’s “Seven Devils” are good examples of this.
Opening the show was Tesfaye. I arrived excited and ready to shoot The Weeknd, an artist that I have been following since his first album House of Balloons, in March of last year. But I was quickly informed that none of the photographers that showed up would be able to shoot him. At first it sounded odd and pretentious. But it fit. I later found out that Tesfaye hardly grants photographic permission unless it’s on his own terms, and in most cases, on his own Canadian Turf. So, I took to the big lawn seats and watched from afar. His recorded voice is near heavenly. It croons and flows through speakers so fluidly that even when signing words that any mother would cringe at they can’t help but sway back and forth. Unfortunately, none of this is the case live. His range just wasn’t there. I’m sure touring has demanded a lot from him and his vocal chords, but when he tried to reach they sky with his voice–it came short. I hope that the next time I see him it proves just to be a one time thing. Aside from that, everything else was there; he drove the girls crazy and opened up the night for Florence + the Machine with the lush sounds of his hits “The Morning” and “High for This.”
When it was time for Welch to take the stage everyone was ready. I knew she had a large following, but I had no idea it was this big. The amphitheater was packed. Shoreline is not one of my favorite venues because it is enormous. A sold out show proved just how much this English band is loved in the Bay Area, and even the U.S.
The lights came on with a silhouette of Welch, who was standing behind a set piece, singing the opening lines to “Only if for a Night.” She walked cooly and calmly onto the stage. Upon taking center stage she released her energy as if it has been building up inside her since the close of her last show in San Diego the night before. It was amazing to see her sing with so much energy. Dancing whimsically, even as she hit the high notes and running from stage left to right to reach out to her fans. She was indeed the highlight of the night. Giving all she had of herself and her voice.
Even with the burst of energy, she was great at controlling the tempo of the performance, taking crowd along with her on softer, more intimate moments like the beginning of “Breaking Down.” She even took a time out to to tell us about how she spent the earlier part of her day on Haight St. in San Francisco. It was moments like this that she connected with the crowd. A smile on her face, it was easy to tell that she wanted to be no where else.
The band was also great. There were two drummers that together created a frenzy of percussion and an ecstatic harp player that made sure he was heard when the rest of the players toned it down. Even Welch herself, armed with some drum sticks, let loose on a drum for a moment during “Spectrum.” On the piano was Isabella Summers, the other founding member of Florence and the Machine.
It was an amazing show to be at. I was excited to see the both The Weeknd and Florence, but found that I actually enjoyed watching Florence + the Machine much more. She impressed me and made me much more of a fan than I thought I was. That is the best that an artist can ask for I think.