Florence Welch takes a moment to bask out amidst her ecstatic fans at the Xfinity Center.
Some performers are made for the masses, generating spiritual energy that melds charismatic gestures with an intimate sense of shared communion – and Florence Welch soars in that category.
The frontwoman of Florence + the Machine kicked off the summer pop season at Manfield’s Xfinity Center with graceful authority on Tuesday. Though the suburban shed was larger than the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion where Welch’s crew played in town last year at the start of touring for new album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, the singer used the sloping Mansfield pavilion as her personal playground, drawing a crowd of about 16,000 into the palm of her hand in the face of passing thundershowers.
Welch often began songs in hushed mode with gospel reverence, backed by her supportive if faceless 11-piece band (including five female backup singers, three of which doubled on horns), before she built nearly every song to a grand release. Swooping from one end of the stage to the other in a sheer, pale-yellow gown that revealed her figure like a ghost in the backlights, Welch pirouetted, pogoed and paced at a brisk clip that made her live vocal gymnastics even more astounding. She blended the brassy vocal attack of Grace Slick, the witchy mysticism of Stevie Nicks and the shaman-like presence of Patti Smith. The auburn-haired, aerobically fit Welch even bolted barefoot up the aisles to sing among the fans on a mid-pavilion platform.
Along the way, the singer also accepted a garland of flowers from one fan, called the crowd as a choir to “absolve” her, and asked everyone to put away their cellphones and bask in the moment of her new album’s joyful title track with only “ears, eyes and each other.”
Alas, Florence + the Machine lacks a memorable songbook to match Welch’s mesmerizing chops as a performer, and the night’s 100-minute set peaked near the end with three of the best tunes from her trio of albums. First came empowerment anthem “Spectrum” (marked by her exhortation to “Say my name”), followed by the trilling, thrilling first hit “Dog Days Are Over” and the new album’s forcefully dramatic “What Kind of Man” – plus a disco-fied cover of the Source’s “You’ve Got the Love” tucked in the middle.
Opening act Monsters and Men complemented the night as another folk-rocking big band, adding bang for the buck the way some of the season’s Xfinity bills do, but the nine-piece group lacked a compelling focus to match the dynamo Welch.
The Xfinity Center boasts a particularly strong season, recently augmented with an Aug. 21 date by Prophets of Rage (the new supergroup with three-quarters of Rage Against the Machine plus Public Enemy’s Chuck D and Cypress Hill’s B-Real). Hopefully the exiting traffic gridlock will be better solved as the season continues.