Florence + The Machine + Arlo Parks @ Place Bell

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Florence Machine Laval

This was one of those tour announcements that made you sit up and pay attention.  Arlo Parks AND Florence + the Machine, together?!  It was kind of a no-brainer that this was how I would begin my Labor Day weekend, even if I am fighting jetlag following my return from Europe the day before!

At this point, Arlo Parks could probably headline a sizeable venue by herself.  Last September, a show at Petit Campus was announced to support her debut record, Collapsed in Sunbeams, which swiftly sold out but was then cancelled without any explanation.  Other shows were running around this time so that it can be squarely blamed on COVID, but whatever the case, tonight is her first time back in Montreal since then.  And she doesn’t disappoint.   The lights drop suddenly at 7.45pm, and her band assembles, huddled onto a small platform in the centre of the Place Bell stage, and begin to jam in dim light until a spotlight emanates from the rafters to illuminate Arlo as she finally arrives on a Montreal stage (eh, technically Laval, I know, but close enough…) to roll into the majestic chill of Green Eyes.  After addressing the crowd with impeccable French, the mellow vibes of Caroline and Bluish maintain the serenity.  Black Dog, a song about helping a friend with depression, sounds especially ethereal, with Arlo’s haunting angelic vocals floating softly around an enthralled Place Bell.  

The upbeat moments of the set are equally brilliant.  Eugene brings in some electric jazz strums to pick up the pace a little and sounds amazing before Hurt and Too Good takes things to a veritable funk level, Arlo punching the air to every beat of the outro of the latter.  Softly is a bona fide pop anthem in waiting, closing out the set in an upbeat fashion to conclude a stellar 9-song set, with Arlo scampering off stage mid-song while the band jams out the song’s conclusion.  An epic 45 minutes, and at this point, I’m genuinely a little concerned as to how tonight’s headliner could follow it!

Arlo Parks Setlist

  1. Green Eyes
  2. Caroline
  3. Bluish
  4. Eugene
  5. Black Dog
  6. Hurt
  7. Too Good
  8. Hope
  9. Softly
florence machine montreal

I first saw Florence + the Machine in 2009 at the tiny, long-defunct Cabaret du Musée Juste Pour Rire, shortly after the release of their debut record Lungs, and somehow, I’ve never seen them again until tonight.  Every visit since has been at a huge venue, either Osheaga or the Bell Centre, so tonight’s show at Place Bell feels like an intimate show by their standards.  Perhaps we have My Chemical Romance’s commandeering of the Bell Centre tonight to thank for that!  Tonight’s show is the first of a 6-week stint across North America, and midway through the show, Florence admits to having felt extremely nervous beforehand.  You would never have guessed that in a million years, though, judging by her enthusiasm and exuberance from the very first beat.  Arriving on stage in front of a bright white altar of creepy chandeliers and a white floor light so bright that it burns the retinas, Florence ghosts around the stage barefoot.  Her chiffon dress bellows in time with her flailing red hair as the spooky Heaven is Here opens the set.  The white light cuts to orange for King, as the rumbling mood continues, with Florence flailing her arms as if to conduct the rest of the band.  Florence was a mesmerizing frontwoman way back in 2009, so after 13 years of huge arenas and festivals, she has truly perfected the art of captivating tens of thousands of people, all at once.  The stage goes black and then explodes in a flurry of blue flashing lights as the thunderous intro of Ship to Wreck rings out, and the entire floor section, and most of those in the seats, pogo in perfect harmony with Florence.  The reaction to the classic chill-inducing Dog Days Are Over is similarly euphoric, with another mass pogo at the chorus, as it is on My Love, though in this case, Florence takes it up a notch, imploring the crowd to sit down during the breakdown, and then exploding to their bouncing feet for the last chorus.

florence machine place bell

The relative intimacy show is made even more intimate by the fact that Florence regularly jumps down from the stage and roams the room throughout the set.  She’s grinning ear-to-ear the first time she does it during Dream Girl Evil, patrolling along the fence before picking a spot and climbing right up on the rail, towering over her devoted followers and leaning down into a new face every time she bellows “evil” and “dream girl” during that thunderous outro.  She goes even further on Choreomania, running down one side of the floor to sing a good chunk of the song from the sound booth before running back up the other side during the song’s conclusion and collapsing in a heap in the middle of the stage, heavily breathing into her mic to dramatic effect, before jumping back to her feet for a frenetic Kiss With a Fist.  Florence proclaims, “this is the Dance Fever tour; we encourage you to dance!”  The crowd are more than happy to oblige. 

As powerful and memorable as these moments are, many of the softer, delicate moments of the set pack a punch just as powerfully.  On Big God, four enormous black veil screens rise up from floor to ceiling, encapsulating Florence within a huge black box with just a spotlight on the floor behind her.  Her shadow is cast on the front screen, varying in size depending on her proximity to the spotlight, which creates a huge, haunting, dancing zoetrope on the stage.  The same setup is employed on Cosmic Love, though here, doves are projected onto the outside of the box, providing the only real light as Florence laments, “The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out / You left me in the dark” from the inside.  It is absolutely stunning, almost reducing me to tears, and unquestionably my highlight of the set.  Never Let Me Go, which opens the encore, is hugely stirring too, consisting of just Florence, piano, violin, blue light, and the crowd providing the outro harmonies like a trained choir.  

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and when they do, it’s with a bang.  Shake It Out sees Florence once again orchestrating both the harmonies and the arm waving in the crowd before urging as many people to climb on the shoulders of the person they came with before the last song Rabbit Heart.  Not easy in the seats, but a good number of the floor are happy to give it a go!  One final euphoric pogo ensues across the room (minus those with bodies on shoulders), before the evening wraps up for good after 2 magical hours.  An unbelievable evening all around.  A phenomenal opener, a sublime headliner; it’s hard to see how a show can be any better than this.

Florence + the Machine Setlist

  1. Heaven Is Here
  2. King
  3. Ship to Wreck
  4. Free
  5. Daffodil
  6. Dog Days Are Over
  7. Girls Against God
  8. Dream Girl Evil
  9. Prayer Factory
  10. Big God
  11. Cassandra
  12. What Kind of Man
  13. Morning Elvis
  14. June
  15. Hunger
  16. Choreomania
  17. Kiss With a Fist
  18. Cosmic Love
  19. My Love
  20. Restraint


  1. Never Let Me Go
  2. Shake It Out
  3. Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)

Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Lillie Eiger

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