All words: Ross Bonaime, Photos: Joy Asico, Weeknd photo via Danielle Da Silva
Upon first glancing at the lineup for Wednesday night’s concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion, there didn’t seem to be any reason why these three artists were touring together. The Maccabees, an indie rock band from Cananda, The Weeknd, an reclusive alt-R&B performer and Florence + the Machine, a pop-rock-soul group with a powerful lead singer, didn’t seem to have much in common. However the way these three artists build in power, starting soft and getting into a louder, more exciting finale in each song, made the three a powerful combination, one that was fascinating to watch throughout the night.
Setting up that style first was The Maccabees, their first song “Child” has a great upward momentum that many of their songs featured. With songs like “Go” and ‘Heave,” The Maccabees have a sound akin to a band like Shearwater, but scaled down a bit. On “Love You Better,” the group started off acoustic, then rose to that louder style, but with their final song “Pelican,” off their recently Mercury-nominated record “Given to the Wild,” they stayed consistently powerful, a great way to close out their opening set.
The Weeknd however has perfected at slow burns to epic conclusions. While probably the odd man out on this lineup, The Weeknd was the most fascinating and exciting performer of the night, for me personally. The set was dominated by his first release “House of Balloons,” as over half of his set came from that album. Starting off with “Lonely Star,” he came out onto an understated stage, with his band seemingly hidden in the shadows while The Weeknd was bathed in black and blue stage lights. The Weeknd allows all the songs to bleed into each other, creating a seamless set. “What You Need” led into “Next” followed by the flashing green lights and dark, electronic ending to “High For This,” before “House of Balloons” greats “Wicked Games” and “The Morning.”
The night’s best performance of any song for me was The Weeknd’s incredible rendition of ‘House of Balloons – Glass Table Girls,” his next-to-last song. The light show increased the power of the song, as the first half, the “House of Balloons” part, was filled with balls of color all across the stage to enforce the more levity-filled half of the song, even though it is still quite dark. However when the song turned to the “Glass Table Girls” portion, the stage grew dark, with strobes all over. Like the song says, “we could turn this to a Nightmare, Elm Street,” and the stage did exactly that.
When it was time for Florence + the Machine to come out, the stage has a display similar to that of a cathedral. As the piano part to “Only If For A Night” played, Florence Welch was silhouetted by the cathedral set. To be honest, I didn’t imagine Florence to be as physical while performing during her set. At times, she ran around, very sprite-like, with her arms stretched out. Kind of like Julie Andrews on top of the mountain in “The Sound of Music.”
Once again, the light show for Florence + the Machine was phenomenal, as it truly encapsulated the power and feeling of each song. A few songs in, Florence said that it is “not all doom & gloom at the Florence + the Machine show,” which she ensured by demanding that the people of “Merry-Land” get out of their seats and climb on other people’s shoulders during “Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up).”
Florence kept up crowd interactions, getting a sing-a-long going with ‘Heartlines”, but then followed it up with a quiet, simple performance of “Leave My Body.” As great as Florence + the Machine are at performing, their songs do start to sound a bit similar when lined up the way they were. I’m not saying it wasn’t a very good performance, but it did feel like there were points when the show did lag.
The crowd of course got excited for arguable the band’s second most popular song, “Shake It Out,” which was followed by a short drum performance by Florence, that led into “No Light No Light,” before her and the band left before the encore.
After once again thanking the state of “Merry-Land,” she performed another track from her latest album “Ceremonials,” “What the Water Gave Me” before getting into the inevitable set closer, “Dog Days Are Over.” During this final song, Florence made sure everyone in the crowd jumped for as long as they could before singing the chorus one last time.
The Maccabees, The Weeknd and Florence + the Machine, while an odd combo, created a very diverse and exciting lineup, with lots of great building into phenomenal finales, one after the other, to make a fascinating evening of differing artists and styles at Merriweather.