How Big, How Beautiful: Florence and the Machine at Veterans Memorial Coliseum

Vortex Music Magazine

Helming an arena for the first time in Portland, Florence Welch and Co. delivered the high-intensity, love-filled, shimmering gold set that only they could bring. Photos by Corey Terrill

Florence and the Machine at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on October 24, 2015—click to see a whole gallery of photos by Corey TerrillFlorence and the Machine at Veterans Memorial Coliseum on October 24, 2015—click to see a whole gallery of photos by Corey TerrillWell before the doors to the arena opened on Saturday, October 24, a large crowd had gathered outside of Portland’s Memorial Coliseum. There was a distinct difference between many of them that can be divided into three groups…

Some were moms and dads walking hand in hand with their daughters, who were dressed in blue princess dresses with little snowflake wands. These were the lost wanderers trying to find where to enter the Moda Center for the night’s performance of Frozen On Ice.

Some were dressed in Grim Reaper robes or skeleton masks, mistaking the line at Memorial Coliseum for FrightTown, the haunted attraction located just next door.

Then there were the people dressed in floral robes, or wearing light, flowy tops and big, stylish hats. They grasped their tickets in hand and discussed such things as how “Third Eye” may be the most underrated song on How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, Florence and the Machine’s latest album. You could tell they were in the right place.

As the doors opened, the crowd came rushing into the venue, some heading to the merch table, most to the bar to grab drinks and find their seats. I personally went straight for my section, sitting in the lower level of the bowl on the side of the stage.

For the longest time leading up to the night, I was unsure if Florence had an opener, or if we would be blessed with an extra long set or just an early night. Alas, upon doing some research, I discovered there was indeed an opening act: The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger.

Who the hell is that? was my first thought. Thank God for Google. A quick search led me to find out that the band known as The GOASTT was none other than Sean Lennon and Charlotte Kemp Muhl. With a psych rock sound parallel to Tame Impala, I got increasingly excited to see Lennon fill the Memorial Coliseum with his sound, a venue his father played decades ago on The Beatles’ only visit to the Rose City.

With the crowd still filtering into their seats, The GOASTT played a solid set of tracks off their album Midnight Sun. There was no large production to it, just pure, solid psych rock. Lennon’s voice sounds just like his dad’s, which was an amazing thing to hear. Perhaps seeing The GOASTT is the closest this generation will get to seeing the great John Lennon in person. Even with the vocals and similarities in appearance, it seemed Lennon tried to keep his identity to himself, never saying his name and, thereby, allowing those who weren’t familiar with the music to form an opinion of him—not his father. Based on their reaction to the music alone, I’d say the crowd was impressed.

Florence and the Machine—click to see a whole gallery of photos by Corey TerrillFlorence and the Machine—click to see a whole gallery of photos by Corey TerrillBut, as good as they were, nobody was there for The GOASTT. We were all here to feel the love of Florence Welch. And feel the love we would. As the stage was being reset for her arrival, the room began to shimmer with excitement. Emotions were high, and Welch would soon release the lot of them.

Slowly stepping by the front row, Welch ascended the stage with the band beginning “What the Water Gave Me,” and before the vocals kicked in, as predicted, tears spread like fire throughout the room.

In a white bell-bottom jumpsuit, Florence Welch pranced around the stage with an amount of energy almost impossible to measure. With songs like “Shake It Out” (my personal favorite), Welch engaged the audience, directing the entire arena as one huge chorus.

As the night continued, more memories were created with every song. In one instance, memories to keep in your mind, not on your phone.

“For this particular song, I want to ask of you something a bit controversial,” Welch said before launching into “Third Eye.” “I would like to ask you put your phones away, and just remember this moment.”

We respected her request, and I personally found myself using this approach even more throughout the show. I refrained from recording as Florence ran through the crowd, hopping on a small stage near the soundboard during “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up).” And I completely looked away from technology during the night’s closing song.

In the middle of the song that started it all, “Dog Days Are Over” (watch the music video below), Welch took a moment to direct the crowd in one of the most amazing and beautiful concert moments I’ve experienced.

Florence Welch—click to see a whole gallery of photos by Corey TerrillFlorence Welch—click to see a whole gallery of photos by Corey Terrill“I want you all to turn to your neighbor and embrace each other. Say you love each other. Kiss each other.” I was greeted with a warm and welcoming hug from a slightly drunk, bearded man. In the moment, I didn’t mind the stranger contact. It was truly a celebration of love.

“Now,” she said. “I want you all to remove a piece of clothing and hold it above your head.” We all took something off—a shirt, a jacket, some a bra, which was then enthusiastically thrown onto stage for Welch to catch. “And with it, I want you to take off something you don’t need. Let go of your burden, and live in this moment.”

As the song came back in, we all held our burdens and our clothes above us, and swung them to the beat of the song. Looking around Memorial Coliseum, this is what I saw: a gathering of people who were there for the love of music and the love of life. Thousands of people in their rawest and most human form, together as one entity. We were all equal in this moment. Vulnerable, yes. But loved. Loved by ourselves. Loved by each other. We had Florence Welch to thank for this memory. A memory and a moment of beauty that I will carry with me forever.

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