Each week, Lizzy Goodman guides you through the dirty streets of rock and roll.
The first time I interviewed Florence Welch she told me about growing up obsessed with Fairuza Balk and cult teen film witchcraft film The Craft, so I shouldn’t be surprised that Florence and the Machine’s Radio City gig Tuesday night came off like a wicken prom. It was a misty warm late spring evening, one of those nights that feels like a dream because you’re basically walking around in a cloud. Nothing seems real, which fits the mood of Florence’s ethereal, goth pop, and which creates a kind of alternate universe. If this is just a dream there are no consequences for those shots of vodka the gaggle of girls in torn up sequined dresses were doing pre-show, little glow stick/cocktail straws bouncing in their drinks. There’s no reason not to go home with that guy/girl you just met. There’s no reason not to take your heels off and dance with your eyes closed barefoot on the, let’s be honest, kind of rank venue carpeting all while surreptitiously swigging from a flask as the girls a few rows down did.
“The set was compact and tight but as we all filed out, dazed a bit from the transformative magic of what had happened inside, I too started to feel a weird energetic contact high.”
You might think from looking at her elegant frame and listening to her posh lilt that Florence wouldn’t approve of such debauchery. You’d be wrong. She’s a real broad, and proud of it. Her mom’s a New Yorker who used to party at Studio 54. And Florence once told me she only discovered she could sing in public after getting super hammered at a Mystery Jets afterparty in London years ago. Even though that was a long time ago, before she became the high priestess of modern British pop eccentricity, the girl still knows how to misbehave. “I’ve had some of my greatest ever hangovers here in New York,” she said between songs, her sheer seashell pink robe moving with every gesture. “I hope you find some of your own tonight.”
The crowd didn’t need the encouragement. They came to let loose. So many fans were decked out in deranged cocktail party attire, a reflection of Florence’s status as the rare fashion icon who actually inspires normal humans to take playful clothing risks. But even those regular rock show going folk — the dudes in t-shirts and jeans, the girls in ill-fitting post-work skirts and sensible shoes — seemed lit from within by Florence’s incantatory presence. “I feel like I’m on drugs,” whispered one pudgy blonde twenty-something to her friend as Florence skipped barefoot across the semi-dark stage, singing the chorus to “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” robe blowing in the mysterious late spring breeze she seemed to have imported from, like, the Yorkshire moors.
The set was compact and tight but as we all filed out, dazed a bit from the transformative magic of what had happened inside, I too started to feel a weird energetic contact high. “I’m not obsessed with death,” Florence once told me, after I brought up the morbid undertones of her lyrics and her interest in the occult. “It’s just fun to toy with those ideas. You’re letting a different part of yourself take over. It’s good for you.” It is. And it comes with no consequences. After all that ethereal misty, vodka-fueled celebrating, I didn’t even have a hangover in the morning.