It was a night of new beginnings in Belfast, for both artist and venue, as Florence and the Machine kicked off her How Big How Blue How Beautiful Tour by becoming the first music act to perform at the newly revamped Odyssey Arena, or SSE Arena, as it’s now known.
There are now digital TV screens at the entrance and a VIP bar in the concourse. I was standing, so I didn’t get a chance to see what the new seats were like.
One major negative was having to queue for five minutes in order to get a wristband to walk the long way round to go to the toilet. Instead of having security hand out wristbands (not sure why they are needed in the first place), could they not just give them to people to put on themselves?
This gig was Florence’s first of the tour, though she has been performing at festivals throughout the summer, most notably, headlining Glastonbury as a late replacement for Foo Fighters, when Dave Grohl was incapacitated by a broken leg after jumping into the crowd.
It is an occupational hazard that Florence is well aware of, having been in plaster for the early part of this year after a similar mishap.
This gig was mishap free, well, until she accidentally knocked a speaker over a security guard during Dog Days. Thankfully, the security guard didn’t appear to be hurt.
Her band, one by one, walked on stage, but no Florence, she waited and built the tension. Big and dramatic is what she does. Throughout the night, you could the thunderous rhythm of the drums in each song, sounding more intense live than they do on record.
She later told the crowd that she had planned on having a choir on stage with her, but the stage wasn’t big enough.
She began by performing What The Water Gave Me and Ship To Wreck. Quite apt theme given The Odyssey’s close proximity to Belfast’s shipyards.
Florence is no stranger to Belfast, but was last here performing at Tennent’s Vital in 2012, as well as previous appearances at Belsonic in 2010 and an Ulster Hall gig in 2009.
She arrived in Belfast straight from Electric Picnic in Loais and had spent a few days in the city, and had spent the night before in a “Traditional Music Pub”, which turned out to be Kelly’s Cellars.
Florence is either everywhere or nowhere, she disappears for a while, and then just comes back. At the moment, she is everywhere.
As her current rate of albums is one every three years. She might not be in Belfast again until 2018. Florence, and the crowd, were determined to make the most of each other’s company.
She was everywhere on the stage, running about from side to side of the stage, and dancing. I say dancing, it was mainly jumping up and down and pirouetting.
Inbetween songs, Florence stated that she was on her own musical Odyssey, nicely linking to her adding that she is now playing The Odyssey.
It’s seven years since her first hit Kiss With A Fist (which wasn’t played), and she is now at the stage where she has had “a lot of hits”
All the biggies were there – Ship To Wreck, Shake It Up (my own personal favourite), Rabbit Heart, You Got The Love, Spectrum, Dog Days, Drumming Song, What Kind Of Man.
It was a night when everybody in The Odyssey was at some point singing, dancing or clapping along. At some point, doing all three.
There were a few objects thrown from the crowd. Nothing unsavoury, just a bra. Someone also made a flag for Florence, which she accepted and waved on stage. Must be a first for Belfast to see a flag universally cheered.
It’s fair to say, that Florence and her machine, were fully functional. Belfast looks forward to seeing her again in 2018. Or earlier, if she fancies.