Florence + the Machine at the Anthem

This past Saturday I went down to DC to see Florence + the Machine at the Anthem. This was my fourth time seeing Florence + the Machine. Interestingly the venues have been going down in size. The first time I saw her was back in her early days opening for U2 at M&T Bank Stadium. That is the first and last concert I will ever go to at a venue that size. Then I saw her twice at Merriweather Post Pavilion. I was a little surprised to see she was playing a venue as small as the Anthem, but she certainly made up for it with the ticket prices. Totally worth it though.

When they originally announced the concert there was only a Friday night show, which I bought tickets to. Then after that sold out they added a Saturday show. Getting down to DC on a Friday night after work is a bear, so I decided to buy a ticket for Saturday night figuring I would be able to sell my Friday one. I eventually did, but I held onto it for a long time thinking I might wind up going both nights. Even though I have a place to stay in DC, after being out of town for the previous two weekends I decided I only wanted to be away on Saturday night and not the entire weekend.

It worked out well because another Baltimore friend was going down to DC to hang out with the friend I was staying with in DC so I rode down with her and then got a ride back to Baltimore on Sunday with my DC friend as we have season tickets to Center Stage and our play was on Sunday afternoon. They went down to the Wharf with me trying to tour some Viking ship that was docked there for 10 days, but the tickets were all sold out. We tried to grab dinner, but all the sit down restaurants around there had at least 90 minute wait times so that didn’t work out either. I wound up grabbing something at Shake Shack. They kept me company while I ate and then went off somewhere else in the city to find food.

Even though the doors to the venue were open at that point I opted to just sit outside and enjoy the nice evening for about another hour. I had been to the Anthem once before to see Brandi Carlile, but that was a seated show meaning there were a lot fewer people. I was a little leary going in on how I was going to feel about a standing room only crowd of 6000 people in an enclosed space, so I decided to limit how long I had to deal with a crowd of drunken people. I also don’t care about Beth Ditto, who was the opening act so I decided I was going to go in just in time for Florence + the Machine to take the stage. I have to say I love Florence, but I do not love her choice in opening acts. I have not cared for her openers at any show I’ve seen.

My plan worked perfectly. I got in line around 9 and was through security at 9:10. Florence + the Machine went on at 9:15. I just situated myself at the back of the crowd and it was fine for the most part. I definitely did not want to be smushed in the middle of everyone. Plus I’ve often found that with my short stature if I can stand far enough at the back of the crowd I can kind of see over it whereas I can’t see anything if I’m in the middle of it. If it wasn’t sold it, it was close to sold out so I couldn’t get exactly far enough away from other people to see great, but for me at at a standing room only show where I wasn’t in the front I could see pretty well. It also helps that unlike must SRO venues, the Anthem has video screens so when I couldn’t see the stage I could at least watch those to see what was happening.

In all the press about her latest album release, High as Hope, I saw that Florence Welch had gotten sober before recording it. Assuming she’s still sober I was kind of curious how that might affect her live shows since she’s always been sort of out there on stage and I thought perhaps she would be more inhibited if she was sober. Whatever her current state of sobriety I did not notice any difference in her stage presence. She was still just as dancing and twirly and all over the place as she has always been. She spent a couple of songs in various states of running and dancing around in between the stage and the security gate, then standing on top of the security gate, and then finally over the gate and off into the crowd. I’m sure the Anthem’s security detail were thrilled.

The music of course was great. She sang an array of songs from across her four albums. It also just felt like a very positive place to be on a night that otherwise didn’t feel so positive in the midst of a whole lot of days that don’t feel so positive. She emphasized that hope is an action, which really struck me since in all of this hope is something I have very much struggled to hang onto and feel like I don’t have anymore. But she’s right without hope we can’t do anything else. I also forgot how touchy feely she likes to have her audience get. I’ve always been with friends at previous shows and perhaps my introverted self blocked out this out, but as soon as she started asking people to hold hands with strangers and asking people to tell strangers that you love them it all came flooding back. It’s not something I’m keen on doing even with people I know, so I was really not excited about doing it alone in a crowd of people I didn’t know. I just stood there, but the people on either side of me were game, so I went along with it.

It was as always a great show and I look forward to her next album when I will undoubtedly get to see her tour again.

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