Florence + the Machine at Glastonbury 2015 review – infectious enthusiasm

Pyramid stage
Florence Welch seizes her Glastonbury moment and wrestles it to the ground with abandon in her storming Friday night headline set

It’s difficult to think of another Glastonbury headliner who works so hard for the audience’s approval as Florence Welch.

Bumped up the bill as a result of Dave Grohl’s broken leg, she doesn’t so much seize the moment as wrestle it to the ground. She repeatedly ventures into the crowd, much to the consternation of the bouncers. She puts a flower garland on her head, proffered by a fan. She encourages audience members to clamber on their partners’ shoulders. She asks the audience if they want to get high: this being Glastonbury, the answer is a resounding yes. She dedicates a cover of the Foo Fighters’ Times Like These to the band’s leader, “who was so incredibly supportive and kind to us”. She talks about ley lines. She reminisces about the days when she played in an outlying tea tent at the festival, “but I had a feeling everything was beautiful”. She throws shapes, barefoot and clad in a white trouser suit, backlit by orange lights: there are moments when she throws shapes with such abandon that we seem perilously close to the world of interpretative dance.

Florence + the Machine Glastonbury 2015
‘Do you want to get high?’ she asks the audience. ‘Yes!’ they reply. Photograph: Oli Scarff/AFP/Getty Images

This is the obviously the kind of behaviour that wobbles perilously along the line that separates the grandiose gesture from ridiculousness. It’s in Welch’s favour that a headlining slot at Glastonbury potentiates the grandiose gesture. The more am-dram aspects of her performance, that might seem baffling in a smaller venue, succeed in reaching to the back of the vast crowd: likewise her voice, a strident and rather testing listen in a more intimate environment.

The audience, understandably, lap it up: there’s a grand tradition, stretching back to the mid-90s, when Pulp filled in at short notice for the Stone Roses, of artists suddenly promoted to the headline slot winning the crowd’s affection, and so it proves here.

It helps that Welch has a store of undeniably great songs to draw upon, many of them from her most recent album, How Big How Blue How Beautiful. In the context of the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury, there’s something infectious about her enthusiasm: her cover of Candi Staton’s You Got The Love provokes a mass singalong. She looks like a woman enjoying her unexpected moment, and it’s hard to begrudge her.


Alexis Petridis

The GuardianTramp

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