Florence Welch is counting down to her tenth anniversary as a pop star. A great deal has changed in the interim (she is no longer routinely compared to a Pre-Raphaelite painting, for one thing). What has endured is Florence’s fluorescent charisma. It blazed brightly at 3Arena as the 32-year-old Londoner bounced on the spot, shook shoulder-length hair and gesticulated wildly.
This was a powerful call to arms from an artist whose personality was big enough to fill the 13,000 capacity venue. Welch has done well moving past the baroque indie of her 2009 debut Lungs and, on recent fourth album, ‘High As Hope’, reflected wistfully but with some bemusement, on her tearaway youth.
Both modes — indie hippy and pirouetting stateswoman — were a good fit. She chanted her way through a dark and stormy ‘Only If For A Night’ and couldn’t stop smiling during the cheeky, sentimental ‘South London Forever’ —a paean to her days as a teenage party animal.
Less successful was her hug-a-stranger patter, which felt as if had been cribbed from a self-help audiobook. Fans were requested/ordered to put their phones away the better “to have an experience”. And cringe factor 10 was achieved as the audience was asked to reach out to the individual sitting alongside and to then announce that they loved them.
On the UK leg of the tour punters were no doubt squirming in the aisles. On a rainy night in Dublin, however, it was a call back to the hand-shaking bit from mass — so that Florence’s attempt to convey an uplifting message was trumped by the muscle memory of mumbling pleasant nothings to the person adjacent.
The art-deco backdrop underwhelmed too. It had seemingly been carved from wonky balsa wood, with enormous sheets fluttering from the roof, like washing left on the line too long.
Disappointing aesthetics were compensated for by a gale-force performance. Welch spun and wailed through the epic ‘Ship To Wreck’, and was a picture of operatic virtuosity on melodramatic early hits ‘Dog Days’ and ‘Cosmic Love’. Whatever about embracing a stranger, by the end you wanted to reach out and give Florence the mother of high-fives.