Florence and the Machine give Electric Picnic a 'stunning' finish

By Ed Power

Florence and the Machine - Electric Picnic, Main Stage

Headlining the main stage at a major festival is all part of a day's toil for Florence and the Machine's Florence Welch.

At the start of the summer, the English singer was parachuted to top of the bill at Glastonbury as a last minute replacement for the Foo Fighters and made this sudden elevation seem like the easiest thing in the world.

She reprised the feat at Electric Picnic, delivering a punchy, no-frills set that showcased her Wagnerian vocal style as well as her emergence as a songwriter of genuine grace and courage.

Welch was ostensibly plugging new album 'How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful', an epic break-up record that glazes her heartache and quarter life woe in Old Testament bombast (seldom has the particulars of one's split from a slightly rubbish boyfriend been conveyed with such continent-quaking portentousness).

But, while the record has proved a significant hit, she understands the final night of a festival might not be quite the moment to force the material on a non-partisan audience and thus trimmed her performance so that agnostics in the crowd did not feel taken for granted.

Wearing an eye-catching blue and white jumpsuit, red hair hanging loose, Welch plunged into an efficient greatest hits victory lap, starting with 'What The Water Gave Me', a Meat Loaf-meets-Kate Bush belter inspired by the poetry of Virginia Woolf (full marks for originality then).

A tambourine-shaking live-wire she next stepped into gale-force new track 'Ship To Wreck', another romantic dirge steeped in metaphor (love is like a sinking galleon, we gather) before veering into favourites 'Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)' and the yearning, uplifting 'Dog Days Are Over' – a song about pushing through your pain and finding joy in the everyday.

Through it all, Welch was confident, emotive and majestic – a star who understands her hour is at hand and is determined to undertake her coronation with all the humility she can muster.

For even casual admirers, it was a stunning turn.

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