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Review: Florence and the Machine at Gexa Energy Pavilion

Posted 11:50pm on Sunday, Sep. 30, 2012

The last time Florence Welch performed in Dallas, a fan leapt onstage in search of a hug and appeared to scare the living daylights out of her.

Sunday night, the 26-year-old Welch pulled a fan from the pit at the foot of the Gexa Energy Pavilion stage -- his naked chest adorned with "I Heart Flo" and bearing what appeared to be a bouquet of fake flowers -- and wrapped him up in a warm embrace.

That was but one example in an evening filled with fascinating contrasts between Florence and the Machine's sold-out concert at the Palladium Ballroom in May, and its almost-but-not-quite sold-out show at Gexa (the figure provided by Live Nation was around 7,000; the Gexa lawn was closed off, leaving only the main pavilion full).

The 75-minute set list was largely the same, with a few songs moved around and changed up (Heartlines was given the acoustic treatment; No Light, No Light now provided the night's emotional high point, coming at set's end). It was largely the same as it was three months earlier, but it also underlined just how much Welch has matured as a performer in the interim.

Once more backed by the six-piece Machine, Welch's grand, extraordinary voice more than filled the cavernous pavilion, soaring out over the heads of the adoring crowd. Drumming Song (from her debut LP Lungs) was a spectacular, early highlight, as Welch clutched the sides of her head and wailed as though her mind was coming apart. The staging was also a tad more ambitious on this second leg of the tour supporting last year's Ceremonials. The baroque backdrop doubled as a fragmented video screen, projecting images or, more often, Welch's pale, bewitching visage.

She also was plenty chatty, offering details about her busy day, which included trips to vintage store Dolly Python and, of course, the State Fair, where Welch spotted, among other things, the smallest horse in the world. "I didn't ride any rides because I'm scared of rides," she offered, before launching into Shake It Out, itself a veritable Tilt-a-Whirl of a tune.

The night's overriding irony is that, when comparing the two Florence and the Machine performances, the concert in the bigger, more formidable room was better. (Conventional wisdom generally holds for acts on the rise that the smaller club shows are the sharper, more unforgettable events.) Perhaps Florence and the Machine is that rare act which will only get more intense, more acclaimed and more incredible the larger the venues become.

There's been talk of Welch taking a year off to recharge after the grueling promotional duties for Ceremonials (she blew out her voice earlier this year). Having seen her thoroughly dominate a space the size of Gexa Energy Pavilion, I'm inclined to believe she'll be fending off -- or eagerly welcoming -- fans in the comfy confines of Cowboys Stadium before too long.

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