“Hold On to Each Other”: The Power of Florence Welch in a Time of Turmoil


Sarah Ross

I saw Florence and the Machine perform their second night at the Anthem in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, October 6. Florence’s concert is something I will never forget, not only because of the pictures, her talent, the band, and my friends, but because of the power she brought to the stage and how she chose to wield it.

When Florence Welch speaks, you listen. You also are blown away that behind the powerhouse voice and poetic lyrics, a very sweet, polite British woman is asking you to please bear with them as they experience some technical difficulties. You are blown away by how she has not taken her influence and grown arrogant, but repeatedly thanks you, the fans, over and over again for showing up, for loving her work, for jamming out to the band, for the intense emotional shouting of lyrics that seems to entirely fill the air around you. If you’re anything like me, you can’t shake the feeling that she and her band are crafting some cohesive narrative bigger than just the songs, bigger than the music, and bigger than her own dreams.

On October 6, Florence played many of the songs from her newest album, High as Hope. She also played two songs from her first album, one of which her most famous- “The Dog Days Are Over  – came out in 2009, when I was only 10 years old. Florence herself thanked us for following her from little bars in South London (indeed, she dedicated the entire song “South London Forever” to her hometown and growing up there) to these big stages. She framed her thanks entirely in terms of being able to share this music and experience with so many people, how touching it was that so many of us were touched by her music, from “Dog Days” to “Hunger.”

The song that really hit me though, was “Patricia”. Florence introduced the song by explaining that the song is about a woman she greatly admires (Patti Smith), but the second verse is not about that woman, rather a shaming and critique of toxic masculinity. From speaking fondly of a woman, Florence jumps directly into a bit of an antagonistic stance, stating:

“Well you’re a ‘real man’, and you do what you can

You only take as much as you can grab with two hands

With your big heart, you praise God above

But how’s that working out for you, honey?

Do you feel loved?”

Hearing this on the night that Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed as a nominee for the Supreme Court almost broke me, but here’s where Florence really got us (the next line):

“She told me all doors are open to the believer

I believe her, I believe her, I believe her”

Right after saying this, Florence put her fist in the air.

In the middle of a crowd, surrounded by strangers and three other female friends, I felt suddenly winded. As students at American University, as women, as people living and growing in D.C., we hear about upsetting political, economic, environmental, and social events every day. Some people get mad, protest, and put in the work in their own communities. Some people protest and then go back to their own lives. Some people aren’t able to protest or talk about these issues at all because they don’t know what to do. Some people find it better to move on with their lives and pretend nothing happened. But here, in the middle of a celebration and exploration of her own music, Florence Welch affirmed that she supports women, that she believes women, and that she will use her platform to display toxic masculinity and rape culture for what they are: deadly.

Some people hate when politics are brought, whether implicitly or explicitly,  into “entertainment” such as movies, shows, music, etc. Some people absolutely eat it up and will hail even the most blase political reference in media as “inspirational” and “brave”. I would argue that Florence seems to grasp what many people do not: there is no such thing as the apolitical, and if it seems to exist, that is because the dominant political ways of thinking have told us certain things are natural and harmless. I think her music and performances speak to the human need for connection, for being seen. If being seen is political, then her entire performance is political.

The feeling of being seen is incredible. It’s even more incredible when it happens to hundreds of people at once, each in unique ways. Florence captures what I love about live music: its ability to simultaneously cater to individuals’ needs and bring them together. Florence didn’t have to give a five minute, explicitly political speech in order to get across what her music and presence was already saying: I see you. I appreciate you. We are together in this mess of emotions. Will you share with me your emotions, your desires, your love?

Each word that comes out of her mouth is not just telling a story. Rather, each word, note, and gesture extends a story to us, and asks us to make something of it.

What kind of man ?” She asks. We reply with “we don’t know, but he sucks and I hate that I can apply that to too many men.”

It’s such a wonderful thing to love,” she reminds us. We say, “We know, but sometimes it’s so hard to believe.”

In the midst of stellar music, talented musicians, perfectly timed lighting and visuals, and running into the crowd and hugging me and countless others, Florence asks not for us to worship her or her music. Neither does she demand that we immediately form a cohesive response to those who wish to silence us. She instead asks us to put our phones down for a second, to hold a stranger’s hand in a crowded room, to connect, to see each other, and above all, as she plead in the first song and on tour merch, to “hold on to each other.”