When Florence Welch passed through Miami a couple of years ago, decompressing after more than two years of touring for the album "Ceremonials," she was in a dark place, a tumultuous period that would be translated into the music on the achingly personal 2015 release "How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful."
"Miami is a very important place in this record. The high highs and the low lows," she told her audience Thursday night as Florence and the Machine opened their North American tour in Miami's AmericanAirlines Arena.
Welch was reminiscing while she introduced the new song "Delilah," a painful morning-after story of booze and pills and trying to forget a man who doesn't call, saying it was written in Miami and telling the crowd that she was "staying in the same room where this all took place."
But there was no melancholy in her memory. On the contrary.
"I lost my heart and my mind in Miami. But it was such a beautiful time. Goods and bads, highs and lows, it was all beautiful," she said, sunnily. "It's an honor and pleasure to come back here and play."
From the opening one-two punch of "What the Water Gave Me" and the arena-shaking "Ship to Wreck," Welch and her 11-member band delivered a raucous night of artful rock 'n' roll distinguished by the new album's soulful introspection and the contagious joy of its red-headed focal point with the moves like Jagger.
Thursday's concert was originally scheduled to take place Friday, but was moved up a day to avoid a conflict with the Miami Heat, who will play an NBA playoff game at AmericanAirlines Arena that night. The top third of the arena seats were covered by black curtains for the Florence and the Machine concert.
Giggly, chatty and unpretentious, Welch arrived onstage to deafening applause, dressed in flamingo-pink pants and matching embroidered vest over a diaphanous white shirt. Well known for her acute fashion sense, the singer somehow resisted any costume changes for the next 100 minutes.
Welch's focus was clearly on the music, and she was given a dynamic foundation by the players behind her, including longtime co-writer and keyboardist Isabella Summers (a.k.a. "the Machine"), guitarist Robert Ackroyd, drummer Chris Hayden, bassist Mark Saunders and harpist Tom Monger, as well as a battalion of five backup singers, several of whom also played horns.
The Calvin Harris club hit "Sweet Nothing" was given a beautifully understated and soulful reading, featuring Ackroyd's delicate guitar. Ackroyd later gave a memorably bluesy twang to Welch's sexy undulations on "Mother."
"Cosmic Love," with Monger's shimmering harp, received an impromptu shower of cell-phone lights in response to Welch's refrain, "The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out."
The new song "Queen of Peace" was paired with "Spectrum" to get the fans on the floor to dancing, with Hayden a muscular metronome on the drums.
Once called "the latest in a line of great English pop eccentrics" by London's Sunday Times, Welch did choose two of the band's most popular songs to allow her exuberance to run amok. Literally in the case of "Rabbit Heart," as she leapt from the stage and sprinted through the crowd to reach a small platform on the other end of the floor where she serenaded fans, before sprinting back to the stage. If anyone ever asks who the fastest person in pop music is, place your bet on Welch.
Later, she slowed down the show-stopping rocker "Dog Days Are Over" to tell audience members to turn to each other, even strangers, and embrace, which many did. "Tell each other that you love each other, because you do love each other! Kiss each other, and touch each other's faces!"
When she returned for the first encore song, the riveting "What Kind of Man," Welch strolled from the stage to exchange hugs and kisses with the audience.