Osheaga 2012: Florence + the Machine

Florence Welch at sunset. Wake me if I’m dreaming. Welch is a pro, isn’t she? I’ve seen her live in support of her debut Lungs several times, and she keeps getting better as the audiences keep multiplying in numbers. Yes, the statuesque Brit has amassed a global following with her not-so-secret weapon: her voice, a one-of-a-kind instrument of its own. On Ceremonials, her sophomore disc that won unanimous critical praise and  landed on, like, every best-of list last year, Welch came back stronger and more experimental, refined in her musical ambitions mixing blaring percussion with hard synth beats over lyrical prowess and melancholic vocals.

Like the start of a dream sequence, Welch seemed to stumble through the first few bars of “If Only For One Night,” but girlfriend got it together. It’s a musical production, these Florence shows. It’s also the first time I’m seeing her perform the new material, which is so musically complex and perfect, I’d fear it would be lost in translation. But it all delivers, and then some. Welch doesn’t get lost in the “oldies,” either. (After touring extensively for two years, you wouldn’t want to either.) There’s a pared down re-work of “Cosmic Love,” which seems to go on for days but isn’t as loud and cloudy, allowing that voice to take the spotlight. I love the cinematic quality of the original, and she still gives us that big finish.

The standard crowd favourites like “Dog Days Are Over” make their appearance, and everyone jumps and shouts and bangs their hips to the tambourine. On “Raise Me Up,” Welch urges us to shoulder-straddle the ones we love and throw those hands in the air. By “Spectrum,” she’s got us all hugging strangers. We’re one song away from a massive orgy. Until the church organs sound for “Never Let Me Go,” where we raise our lighters, and sway to her voice and wonder how we ever got so lucky. By dusk, the hour-long set comes to close about 60 minutes too soon with “No Light, No Light,” and the fiery deity sends off into the darkness – but not without something to remember her by.