REVIEW: Florence and the Machine endorses Arya Stark at Concord tour stop

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Florence and The Machine, Florence Welch

Florence and The Machine performs at Concord Pavilion in Concord on May 15, 2019. Photos: Sean Liming.

CONCORD — The penultimate episode of “Game of Thrones” knocked out the (spoiler alert) sitting Iron Throne ruler while destroying the reputation of another. At her tour stop at the Concord Pavilion on Wednesday, Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine made her pick of the remaining players still in the running.

Welch, who recently recorded a song for the show’s soundtrack, “Jenny of Oldstones,” dedicated the ballad to Arya Stark. The haunting new folk ballad was a nice addition to the band’s set because it provided a perfectly timed respite from the pummeling percussion that has been a staple at its shows in the U.S. ever since Welch made her Bay Area debut at the Mezzanine in 2010.

Florence and The Machine, Florence Welch

Florence and The Machine performs at Concord Pavilion in Concord on May 15, 2019.

Florence and the Machine have passed through the Bay Area numerous times in recent years, enough for patterns to emerge. Welch will twirl across the stage in a constant blur of red hair. “Dog Days Are Over” will provide a cathartic release leading to mass pogoing across whatever room, club or arena in which it’s performed. Welch will at one point tell people to put their phones away because it’s ruining the moment only to have them pull them back out and turn on their flashlights to create a moment. And most importantly, she will blow the roof and walls off when she begins to belt out the grandiose choruses to her songs, impressing everyone. This was the case again in Concord.

She and her band kicked off with “June,” off 2018’s High As Hope. The slow-burner built slowly before exploding at the end and serving as a jumping-off point for the rest of the night. A couple of songs later, “Between Two Lungs,” from her 2009 debut, Lungs, got a folkier percussion-led intro before reverting back to album version form. Both the intro and the version fans have come to expect were entertaining.

Welch got a workout on “Only If For a Night,” working the stage barefoot (another thing to expect from one of her shows) to the cut from her 2011 sophomore record, Ceremonials. The following cut, “Queen of Peace,” from 2015’s How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, was a moment for her band’s violinist to shine with a piercing melody.

And just like that, five songs into the set, Welch had covered each of her four albums. Following the song, she made some small talk about her “scary shouting, then a tiny voice,” and twice mentioned that she is leaving a rough patch in her life behind. She didn’t go into specifics, but added that performing in front of her fans gives her strength and the courage to carry on. A short time later in the show, she again returned to the recent dark time, describing it as a “brain blanket of doom.”

Florence and The Machine, Florence Welch

Florence and The Machine performs at Concord Pavilion in Concord on May 15, 2019.

As with her last passes through the Bay Area, at Outside Lands last August and at Not So Silent Night last December, she explained how she had written High As Hope song “Patricia” both for Patti Smith and about toxic masculinity. That was followed by the one-to punch of “Dog Days Are Over” and “Ship To Wreck. While those two songs provided cathartic highs, the following “Moderation” and “100 Years” both had descending scales that added a dramatic element.

While her band never overshadowed Welch, individual members had opportunities to stand out, and the beautiful harmonization on “The End of Love” highlighted Isabella Summers and the other women in the band. The tail end of the show included the rousing “Cosmic Love” as well as “What Kind of Man” and “Shake It Out.”

The next ruler of the Seven Kingdoms wasn’t the most-mentioned monarch at the concert. That honor fell to Christine and the Queens. Artist Héloïse Letissier and her troop of dancers were playing their first show on this tour, and it was their first amphitheater performance in the U.S. Letissier split the difference between her early tours and her most recent one, for which she sold out The Fox Theater in Oakland two nights—they performed to backing tracks, without a band, but she kept her entire squad of dancers.

Christine and The Queens, Héloïse Letissier

Christine and The Queens perform at The Concord Pavilion in Concord on May 15, 2019.

That squad walked on stage in a tight formation before they sprinted off in different directions, as if a shot had gone off, revealing Letissier. The performance also hewed closely to her last stop through the Bay Area, with impressive choreography and sharp lyricism.

“Be brave in the rain out there,” Letissier said, pointing to the sea of umbrellas in the uncovered part of the theater.

Her set included older fan favorites like “iT” and “Tilted,” as well as newer material like “Comme si,” “5 Dollars,” “Goya Soda” and banger “Damn (What Must a Woman Do).” She also notably mashed up her song “Paradis Perdus” with Luniz’ “I Got 5 on It” as an introduction to “The Stranger.” Letissier also made a statement with “Saint Claude,” indirectly addressing the new abortion restrictions in Alabama and Florida.

“Witches of all countries unite for freedom!” she demanded.

Follow editor Roman Gokhman at Twitter.com/RomiTheWriter. Follow photographer Sean Liming at Twitter.com/SeanLiming and Instagram.com/S.Liming.

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