- 29 May 23
The dog days are most definitely over, with baroque-pop crew Florence + The Machine set to perform a barnstorming series of Irish gigs this summer – including a show at Musgrave Park. As part of our June Gig Special, we take a deep-dive into Florence Welch & Co., and also have a look at the full selection of acts who'll be storming the Cork stadium this summer...
Florence + The Machine may often be pigeonholed in the ‘ghostly Miss Havisham dances around the stage’ arena of music reviews, but Lady Welch is a bonafide rock star. From memorable Electric Picnic festival sets to her recent 3Arena Dublin jaunt on the Dance Fever tour, the UK indie-rock queen never fails to unleash thrilling, drama-filled live performances.
This time around, the Machine are bringing their theatrical tour to three Irish outdoor venues: Cork’s Musgrave Park (June 26), Dublin’s Malahide Castle (June 27) and finally, Belfast’s Ormeau Park (June 28). 2022’s exhilarating Dance Fever marked Welch’s first album in four years. The Camberwell native’s rise was fast-paced. At 23, her debut album, Lungs, launched her on an 18-leg world tour that culminated in support slots for Irish rock icons U2. Florence became a household name almost overnight, earning a Brit award after only two singles, establishing a book club with fans that remains active, and publishing a volume of poetry.
The artistic multihyphenate has been open about her cravings for live performance, which appears roughly every two years and engulfs Florence in a world tour. Speaking to the Guardian last year, Welch described feeling “bereft” when the pandemic put a stop to shows. Penning tracks for Dance Fever in New York with Jack Antonoff (Lorde, Lana del Rey, Taylor Swift) at the time, she moved her boyfriend into her London flat. Her “sad little poems” turned into glimmering bangers like ‘My Love’, produced by Dave Bayley of Glass Animals.
Dubbing the up-tempo yet melancholic record “Nick Cave at the club”, the darkness within Dance Fever, charting the intense isolation which chipped away at her mental health, bleeds through. “It felt incredibly final,” she told the Guardian. “No one could say, before there was a vaccine, if gigs would ever come back. Maybe in five years, seven years. I often think about everyone meandering back into the world now with so much unprocessed PTSD.”
Welch told her mother: “I don’t really want to exist in a world where I can’t do the thing I feel like I was put on this Earth to do. The thing that gives me meaning, that makes the jumble in my head – which is a sort of screaming nightmare a lot of the time – make sense.”
Reviewed in Hot Press upon its release, the album epitomised the need for release and catharsis among a caged bird society: “Blending baroque-pop with folk textures, Dance Fever brilliantly tackles themes of joy, fury and grief. Equally influenced by ‘70s Iggy Pop and Lucinda Williams, it’s perhaps Florence’s most eclectic offering yet.”
Dance Fever was influenced by the phenomenon of choreomania – described as public episodes, or fits, after the bubonic plague in Europe, in which people would dance themselves into a frenzy. There is a similar scene in Ari Aster’s Midsommar, one of Welch’s lockdown movies.
It’s a double-edged sword for the singer-songwriter and poet, who injured her foot last year on stage and had to postpone numerous tour dates as a result. She throws herself into shows with such spirit and frenzy that even her body tells her to slow down. Indeed, Welch’s gigs invite everyone to leap and twirl after years of instability. They accept her invitation with relish.
Album track ‘Free’, featuring Bill Nighy in the video cameoing as Welch’s anxiety, sees Florence vividly express how the illness “picks me up” and “puts me down”. At her most joyful sprinting around the stage and mixing with the crowd, bowing her head to a fan in the front row in every performance for a prophet-like moment, Florence’s voice never wavers despite the intense movement. Flicking between whispered croons, bellowing, ethereal falsetto notes and every register in between, her vocal chops could stop time.
Hopefully, the flame-haired pop sensation can pause life at her Irish outdoor dates.
Florence + the Machine’s most recent gift to fans is a new single, ‘Mermaids’, arriving on a new “complete edition” of Dance Fever. Since releasing the project with her band, Florence Welch has shared a new version of ‘Morning Elvis’ from the album, featuring Ethel Cain, recorded live in Denver.
In March 2023, Florence and the Machine covered No Doubt’s Tragic Kingdom cut ‘Just A Girl’ for the second season of the series Yellowjackets. Welch has also committed to scoring a Great Gatsby musical for 2024. The British artist’s interpretation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel will arrive ahead of the book’s centenary at Harvard University’s American Repertory Theater. Welch is collaborating with Thomas Bartlett, aka Doveman, on music for Gatsby. She is also writing the production’s lyrics, featuring a book by Pulitzer Prize winner Martyna Majok.
“This book has haunted me for a large part of my life,” Welch said in 2021. “Musicals were my first love, and I feel a deep connection to Fitzgerald’s broken romanticism.”
With her successful book club and viral TikTok page, Welch’s deep-rooted connection to her fans has thrived and flourished in the last decade. Her confessional nature only adds fuel to their fire, with the star describing her nine-year sobriety journey to followers earlier this year.
Speaking to Vogue in 2019, the ‘Shake It Out’ singer talked about her experiences with substance abuse, body image issues and mental illness: “An eating disorder wants you silent, ashamed, isolated but your body is more than a thing to be looked at. It works with you, not against you. You do not beat your own heart.” The human body is at the core of Florence + The Machine’s latest opus, but so too is resilience.
The incredible video for one of the first tracks released from Dance Fever, ‘Heaven Is Here’ was directed by photographer and filmmaker Autumn de Wilde. In the clip, Welch and seven dancers in Victorian gowns throw their bodies around like dolls, filmed in Kyiv weeks before Russia invaded Ukraine. Two of the dancers, Nastia and Maryne, are now refugees.
“Everyone was so happy to be working again, and the general sense from the team was of freedom, of celebration,” she recalled in a 2022 interview. “For them to not know what was around the corner – that it wouldn’t in any way bring people together, that we would emerge to be engulfed in another horror. I said to my Ukrainian friend: ‘I feel so helpless.’ She said: ‘We’re still holding on. I’ve never been sadder and I’ve never been prouder.’”
That’s most likely what to expect from her anticipated Irish outdoor shows this summer: sweating, sprinting and solace for those desperate to break their fevers.
• Florence + The Machine play Musgrave Park, Cork (June 26); Malahide Castle, Dublin (27); and Belsonic, Belfast (28).
Who else is playing Musgrave Park in June?
George Ezra (June 11)
The English ‘Shotgun’ hitmaker’s Musgrave Park date follows two sold-out shows in the 3Arena and the Gleneagle in March. Ezra is on the road promoting his acclaimed 2022 album, Gold Rush Kid, which proved another major hit. After releasing two EPs, Did You Hear the Rain? and Cassy O, Ezra rose to prominence in 2013 with the wildly popular single ‘Budapest’. The following year confirmed his star status, with his debut album Wanted On Voyage topping the UK charts.
The 1975 (June 13)
The indie-pop band will continue their At Their Very Best Tour in Cork. The 1975’s fifth album, Being Funny In A Foreign Language, was released in October 2022 and topped charts in Ireland and internationally, following No.1 LPs A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships (2018) and Notes On A Conditional Form (2020). Having met in school, Ross MacDonald, Adam Hann, Matty Healy, and George Daniel unveiled The 1975’s debut album in 2013, which launched them to fame. The Manchester outfit have performed in Ireland on numerous occasions over the years, selling out Dublin’s 3Arena, St. Anne’s Park and Malahide Castle.
The Chemical Brothers (June 21)
The Chemical Brothers recently shared their first new music in two years with the irresistible acid track ‘No Reason’. Currently at work on their tenth album, the LP is due for release later this year. The multi-platinum selling duo are unarguably one of the most influential electronic acts of all time. Across three decades and on their nine acclaimed albums, they have smashed through genres and boundaries with pioneering music, stunning videos and mind-bending live shows. The Chemical Brothers have sold over 13 million albums (reaching No 1 in the UK six times) and close to 20 million singles. Expect the Cork crowds to thrill to classics like ‘Hey Boy Hey Girl’, ‘Block Rockin Beats’ and more.
Kodaline (June 23)
This show follows Kodaline’s acclaimed gig at Malahide Castle last summer, and their beautifully recorded live album Our Roots Run Deep. The quartet recorded their performances for the 17-track album at Dublin’s sold-out 3Olympia in March 2022. Kodaline released One Day At A Time, their fourth album, in June 2020 and added a new chapter to a career that has already encompassed three No.1 albums in Ireland, two Top 5 albums in the UK, and more than a billion streams on Spotify. Their live set’s highlights will include ‘High Hopes’ from the band’s debut album, 2013’s In A Perfect World, and ‘Brother,’ a moving cut from third LP, Politics Of Living.
Read the full June Gig Special – presented in association with MCD – in the current issue of Hot Press:
- 24 Nov 23