Arriving later at the Hollywood Bowl than I wanted to because I’d just finished shooting Jenny McCarthy at Barnes and Nobles for her book signing of Bad Habits: Confessions of a Recovering Catholics where she posed and preened for a solid 15 minutes had forced my late arrival at the Bowl. Once I arrived I had Florence and the Machine on my mind. I waited fror my press pass while hearing echoes of The Weeknd finishing off the last 20 minutes of their set. The Hollywood Bowl staff was a gracious as ever but there are procedures and those expectation must be met before one shoots at the Hollywood Bowl. I stood there with two other photographers who were representing the British press having a casual chit chat.
As Florence and the Machine were near to hitting the stage we were informed we would have access near the stage. This ment closer access than I had ever had before. Meaning better access than during the Jazz nights hosted by The Los Angeles Philharmonic. I was now far more captivated with the idea of shooting the show. The time arrived for us to make our sojourn to the edge of the stage. This was very close and no longer was distance the challenge but rather the lighting could prove more difficult. I was up to the challenge!
Florence made her entrance in grand style. The band had already occupied the stage when her silhouette appeared against a back-lit elaborately designed Victorian styled scrim as the band ramped up with “Only If For The Night”. The fans were on board from the beginning and her silhouette resting against the screen was the Que for all to rise with clapping and cheers rose all the way to the back of The Hollywood Bowl. She’s an energetic performer and with seconds of her release she was at the the mic delivering the goods! We photographers were snapping madly trying to catch the energy and the passion set before us. She was dress in a black evening dress with a deep plunging neck line that was opaque to the eye caressing her form with a floral soutache that covered her shoulders to her upper thighs. The remaining elements of her arms and legs were encased in a very sheer black fabric with billowing sleeves with cuffs and it’s hem falling at her ankles. While her look is different than Stevie Nicks I still felt as if it echoed that aesthetic. Visually, it played well with me, with all that red hair, pale skin in a black dress.
Photo gallery after the jump
As she descended into the heart of her set I could hear the various markers of influences she had harvested for herself and her sound. In my listening to Florence and the Machine there were ephemeral glimpses of Enya, Annie Lennox and Dead Can Dance with contemporary references that reflected a zeitgeist of what has emerged as a style and genre baring similarities to Little Boots and Dragonette, but still uniquely her own. I turned to my box mate, a man named Brain, to drop these nuggets of insight on him to elicit a response. He was a bit coy, yet his voice his opinions, but there was a snag at the comparison of Dead Can Dance. HE felt she didn’t have those chops. I had to agree with him that Florence has an amazing voice, but I and he were of the opinion she couldn’t go toe to toe with Lisa Gerrard or say an Annie Lennox. Her vocal delivery was more “Celtic Woman” but not as intense and technically difficult as Lisa Gerrard sing style, nor was she warm, soulish and as powerful as Annie Lennox. This is where Little Boots and Dargonette come in: she was more Pop centered, she wasn’t reaching for an eccentric fringe but rather a round middle. Florence and the Machine is a level above Little Boots and Dragonette and a level below Lisa Gerrard or Annie Lennox. While my assessment may seem deflating for the fanatic, I found for the most part she put on an engaging show. The speed bumps I experienced watching the show came with her constant and withering pronouncements of “Hey, Los Angeles”, pronounced “Los Angahelees” and “We’re Playing The Hollywood Bowl”. It is great to be in Los Angeles and it’s a marvel to play The Hollywood Bowl. But other artist play the venue with discretion and quietly revel in the experience. Florence and the Machine has climbed in popularity hitting all the premium venues starting with the Wiltern. Then to flex her muscles at The Greek and now to finally nest at The Hollywood. Bravo! It’s an accomplishment but the constant reminders kept taking me out of the performance and landing me in demographic, marketing and merchandising land. I started to want to know more about Florence’s background and social status and less about the music and her message. As a musical artist is this the desired response you want from your audience for one of your performance.
I was entranced by Florence and the Machine Victorian styled scrim. The scrim’s multi functional aspect as back drop, prop and video screen fascination to me and added a lot to the performance. It was constantly morphing behind her. At one moment it was a stained glass window perched in an English garden and then a mirror reflecting her visage to the audience. My conclusion after intently watching it through the set is that it must be some form of LED screen that proved to be an amazing backdrop for her performance. I concede that that element of the show was utterly brilliant and a real show enhancer.
Somewhere in-between “Cosmic Love” and “Rabbit Heart” she gave “Snogging” or for us state side folks making out. She encourage us all to pursue that interest. I have to agree with Florence’s statement, “that there can never be enough kissing”. From there she continued hitting a high point of energy with the song “Spectrum” to really churn up the faithful! I should point out that The Hollywood Bowl was filled with women. Likely a 60% to 40% mix of ladies to gentleman. It’s my opinion that women love Florence and these women were keenly looking to Florence at a roll model. My observation is that women were the most emphatic supporters of the band’s music. Therefore, I found myself in one of the most desirable positions I could imagine. I was engulfed and imbued in clouds estrogen in the midst of females ecstatic expressions of joy. It’s heady stuff and I reveled in it! Florence honed in on the energy, running to and fro across the stage bare footed till she dialed it down with the soulful “Leave My Body”. She continued with this slower pace till “No Light, No Light”. This brought to mind her tattoo itched on her forearm that reads “Sad Sack”. I guess Florence has her bluer moments and it reflected in some of her songs towards the end. Then the Machine and Florence vaporized from the stage till the throngs in their seats and boxes hooted and hollered for their spirited return for the encore. The band was poised at the edge of the stage till Isabella Summers made it to the keyboards, I believe it was Isabella’s way of separating her from the rest of the band as a song writer. Then the rest of the jaunted to the respective instruments once Isabella had settled at the keyboard. Soon they were followed by Florence as they embarked on the gospel flavored “Lover To Lover”. The audience was enthralled and hung on every move as Florence evoked passion and fire for her listeners. Florence finished with the more anthemic “Dog Days Are Over” sending off everyone on a high note. She profusely thanked the audience and Los Angeles with hint of coming back. Florence and the Machine’s music is big enough to fill The Hollywood Bowl and perhaps something more grand is on the horizon. Time will tell.