The truest test of a real Reading moment is the legendary bank holiday weather. Nothing sends harden festivalers scurrying for cover like a relentless downpour, and as thirty minute gap between The Vaccines and Florence + The Machine ticked arduously along, the heaven’s opened. It was a bruising storm. Fans were soaked through and through. Heads stooped as the thick goblets of rain continued to cascade against unsuspecting necks – but no one was deterred.
The crowd stayed put. Growing thicker and thicker, until Saturday’s biggest single assembly of festival fans awaited Florence’s arrival. Their hardship was quickly rewarded as the band emerged and launched straight into a celestially gothic opening gambit. “Only If For The Night”, “What The Water Gave Me”, “Cosmic Love”, “Rabbit Heart” and “Spectrum” flowed in quick succession, but rather than delivering a dark and diva-ish display of apocalyptic pomp, Florence flipped the script after just two tracks. Standing soaked head to toe in her quasi see through black dress, she kicked off her heels (far too limiting), and embraced the moment. Any sense of grandeur was dismissed as she marveled at the human pyramid and the preposterous displays of exuberance (“you’re acrobats!”) in the crowd.
As she stomped and smashed across stage huge pools of water were kicked up, and the much maligned starlet quickly created a tangible sense of intimacy with her billowing audience. She told stories of her youth, lead the crowd in dance, encourage human sacrifice (don’t ask), and brought the house down with a ferocious finale. “Shake It Out” proved irresistible, as The Machine effortlessly transitioned into Benny Banassi’s bombastic remix for an implausible rave up. From that point on the heavens had been beaten back and “Dog Days Are Over” and “No Light, No Light” served as a fitting victory lap. It’s hard to imagine it getting better than this for Miss Welch, but if she keeps up this pace she might just headline one day. David Hayter