Florence and the Machine at Bournemouth International Centre 6.2.2023 with Willie J Healey supporting

This is a rescheduled gig from November last year. I did have a look at getting tickets then but without enough urgency before it sold out. Unfortunately Florence (Welch) found she’s had been performing on a broken foot and the Bournemouth gig was rearranged to tonight, a Monday, not so popular, so some tickets became available and here we are. Sold out again though.

With the travelling about I do for gigs and the fact that Bournemouth often misses out on the bigger tours, I thought Florence and the Machine seemed a good option. Ever since she/they appeared on the scene I’ve had a casual interest, nearly going to a few gigs while abroad but left it or they sold out (Amsterdam; Chicago). I did see the first tour for the Lungs album in September 2009 at Bournemouth O2 Academy… hmm that really is a while ago now.

The latest album, Dance Fever, is a good listen but my familiarity with the material is limited to that and Lungs along with singles played on the radio. They/she are always a good watch live on tv so here goes.

I noted earlier that Florence’s ‘Machine’ is a constant of Rob Ackroyd on guitar, Tom Monger on harp and Isabella Summers on keyboards with an additional selection of changing musicians. Isabella Summers has clearly been an essential ingredient of the sound and the band. That still leaves me wondering if we should refer to seeing Florence as seeing the band or Florence Welch. I thought it was the former but after tonight I realise it’s more the latter.

Bournemouth International Centre – The BIC

It is what it is. An unremarkable, tolerable, adaptable Windsor Hall holding up to 6,500 and selling expensive unremarkable beer, if you want to queue for ages for your prize in a plastic beaker, including the ghastly two pinter.

Plenty of eateries and bars to choose from out there in Bournemouth if you are out for a full evening, or weekend even. Sixty Million Postcards is 100 yards away (I still like a yard 😁) and the lovely is Brewdog is a short walk, as is the big Wetherspoons, The Moon on the Square. If you’re happy to pay BIC prices you may as well go somewhere smart with some style and atmosphere: the 1812 bar over the road. Go for it. Have a cocktail.. it might even still be happy hour if you’re lucky.

More seasoned ale drinkers may like to enjoy Poole Hill Brewery or the wonderful selection in the Goat and Tricycle, worth the half mile walk from the BIC.

Tonight’s Gig

Support – Willie J Healey

We are in for the support act Willey J Healey. This feels more of a delaying tactic than a warm up. Just not my sort of thing I guess, describing himself as a ‘marriage between guitar and funk’. Maybe better in a nightclub gig. There’s a whiff of Jamiroquai in the air.

It’s all standing downstairs this evening, so the support slot is at least a chance to shuffle around and find some shorter people to stand behind – a giant returns from the bar and his partner smiles as we quickly shift. He is the biggest, tall and solid, guy I have ever seen. I seem to have homed in on front right again here. These days the speakers are often so elevated you don’t have to worry about being blasted if too near the front.

Florence and her machine appear just after 8.30pm. The audience is strong on women, many young groups. Lots of flowery head bands and long hair. When the show starts I can hear people around be singing every word, even on the new album tracks. Florence is their icon and through the set her words and attitude illustrate her role model persona.

The band, her ‘machine’, could not be more backstage. She has most of the stage to dance and float around with the other musicians tucked away to each side, a backing vocalist to front right of the band. Florence has a stunning green fairytale sparkly dress on which flows with her. The rear stage centre piece is a huge mass of imitation candles in a feature resembling a gothic horror filmset. Aside from that no gimmicks, no exotic lightshows, tickertape or fireworks. This show is Flo.

Flo and the candles

Twelve tracks from the latest album Dance Fever, which everyone seems to know well: even I have rehearsed that one in anticipation. Ship to Wreck is the first diversion to earlier work and it’s only half an hour in before my top pick The Dog Days are Over (I used to have four little beauties and mine are I think) from the first album Lungs is welcomed with a roar.

Florence appeals for some time to put the phones away and absorb the moment – love the people around you. It works. A few songs on and the phone free atmosphere is allowed to evaporate and later it’s positively phones out time with Florence wanting to see them.

Phone games

Morning Elvis is a new album goody, followed by two from the High as Hope album: June and the eating disorder anthem Hunger. Great song.

Florence at the BIC

The crowd are absorbed in the glowing Flo performance. It is reminiscent of Kate Bush, not that I saw her live. At the height of the set she disappears from view. What’s happening? Then she appears, floodlit at the back of the hall, near the mix desk singing up at the balcony front row. Then a flurry of activity as some of the crowd security team come quickly through, towards us with torches and followed by the floodlit Florence. She pauses for split seconds as she skips through gracefully touching and greeting fans including the girl directly in front of us. I could have fainted for her. Her (school) friends are suitably impressed with this baptism as Flo floats back to the stage to huge cheers.

With the audience in her power now the get down low appeal comes… lower lower… blimey my knees are creaking. This stoop is the best I can do Flo… up up up… at last, before I pull anything, and this happy place is dancing.

Up up – Flo worship

She ends the set with one more, Restraint, from the latest album. A short break. Thanks and introductions to the band and three encores from the back catalogue: Never Let Me Go and Shake it Out from the Ceremonials album (2011) and Rabbit Heart (Raise it Up) from my more familiar Lungs album territory.

I’m really pleased I made it to this Florence experience, nearly 14 years on since that first album tour. She has earned a special place in British pop music history with her uniqueness.

(As you will have gathered, I left my pocket zoom camera at home again 🙄)

Published by ivaninblack

Still wild about live music - bands - gigs - festivals - after 42 years at it. All photos have been snapped by me or I will point out otherwise - I'll even own up to any blurry mobile phone ones. If gigaholic is a phrase then in recent years I think I've become one.

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