Florence Asks For Phones To Be Put Away As She Slays Hyde Park
The BST Hyde Park shows might not quite be fully-fledged festivals, but they still boast some of the boldest and most eclectic line-ups you can get anywhere in the UK this year.
What’s even more curious about the line-up is how Florence + The Machine, despite their three UK number one albums, were actually sitting above Kendrick Lamar, one of the world’s hottest artists, in the running order. Was Florence going to get upstaged by the seven-time Grammy award winner?
The day started off with Dev Hynes – better known as Blood Orange – supporting his stunning new album Freetown Sound (which, last week, was released three days earlier than fans were expecting), who was then followed by the veteran Cat Power.
Jamie xx was next, playing during a slot plagued by heavy rain and hail (which my friend didn't mind much because the hail was “cooling down” his pint). Eventually the sun broke out as the gleaming, looping synths of ‘Gosh’ whirled out, which had a spectacular second music video, directed by Romain Gavras, released last week.
Also, can we please take one moment to appreciate the real winner of the day: this man here (image below) who kept his head (and the seat itself) dry when the bad weather hit.
Jamie xx has enjoyed enormous success following the release of his debut In Colour, but you got a feeling that the crowd on Saturday was reserving their energy for what was coming after.
Next up: Kendrick Lamar who was sporting a sweatshirt bearing the words “the strength of the country lies in its youth”. Considering the week the UK has just endured, the quote felt particularly apt. Kendrick Lamar has never been one to shy away from important issues.
Kendrick let loose most of his biggest hits to date, including ‘Swimming Pools’, ‘King Kunta’ and ‘B***h, Don’t Kill My Vibe’. ‘i’ might split opinion amongst fans, but we were disappointed that he didn’t play it.
Mid-way through set-closer ‘Alright’, Kendrick stopped the song in its tracks. "We didn't come all the way from motherf**king Compton for... TURN THIS S**T UP!” Of course, Kendrick got what he wanted: the sound went way up and a whole lot of people down the front lost their s**t. A highlight.
On record, nobody can touch Kendrick Lamar - he's a domineering presence, an intelligent and furiously creative force. But with his live show, the crowd only seemed to engage during the odd moments when Kendrick demanded it "HANDS IN THE AIR!” It’s odd to think that Kendrick needs to actually win people over still (IT’S K-E-N-D-R-I-C-K L-A-M-A-R!), but you find yourself wishing that he'd stamp out his authority on stage more often.
Time for Florence Welch to hit the stage. Flanked by a small army of backing singers and instruments, the South-Londoner opened up with the hits, pulling out ‘What the Water Gave Me’, ‘Ship to Wreck’, ‘Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)’ and ‘Shake It Out’ back-to-back. During ‘Rabbit Heart’, Florence ordered: "I want as many people on shoulders as possible!" The crowd dutifully carried the order out.
Florence often addressed the audience, and her in-between song chat was always sincere, and even kind of funny at times: "this is our largest London show ever! Our first was in a pub in New Cross, I would say I remember it, but I was sooo drunk."
The final show on the current tour, which has now run for 18 months, Florence was clearly enjoying herself. Sprinting from one side to the other and spinning around, she never ran out of energy.
"I was travelling around the world, but instead of looking at everything around me, I was looking down at my phone,” said Florence, “for this song, let's put our phones away." It’s a nice sentiment, but the irony was that one guy near me was filming that exact speech on his phone. Sigh. Nice try though, Florence.
Before playing ‘You’ve Got The Love’, Florence spoke out once more: "I have been feeling a bit heartbroken recently but tonight I have been feeling so much love," she said. "I see so much love in each and every one of you, the love you have here I see so clearly, take it out there with you."
Florence then launched into the thundering ‘Dog Days Are Over’, before coming back for her encore with a rainbow flag in hand, which was met by huge cheers. The set ended with ‘What Kind Of Man’ and ‘Drumming Song’.
Despite what we might have thought beforehand, Kendrick didn’t upstage Florence. Even if Kendrick Lamar is making some of the most intelligent and important music of the moment, Florence is a far more natural live performer. Her relentless energy and optimism carried through a feel-good set that, considering the week that’s just passed, everyone in attendance sorely needed. Next up: Florence’s almost-certain-to-be-released fourth album at some point in the future.