“I would never do that,” my colleague says when I tell her I’m going to see Florence + the Machine on my own. A few months ago, I would have agreed. Going to a concert alone is generally considered weird – which is one of the reasons I have missed out on many gigs. If none of my friends wanted to go, I couldn’t go either. Basically, I let others decide whether I was going to dance and sing in front of the stage or whether I’d stay at home with a bag of crisps and an unhappy feeling, watching a dull live stream at best. I started to ask myself: What is wrong with me? Why am I too insecure to walk into a concert hall full of people, when otherwise, I am independent enough to even travel on my own? When I saw the announcement of the How Big 2015 tour, I decided to challenge myself. Here’s how I experienced Florence + the Machine live in Hamburg – solo.
It’s Monday night. Right after work, I take the bus to Barclaycard Arena – and spot the first two hippie headband girls. I can’t help but grin when a big guy tells his friend he didn’t dress up as much – but, according to him, he still has a wreath of flowers in his back pocket. I guess I’m on the right bus…
At the concert hall I make the first mistake. I might not be too insecure to go to a concert alone, but I am definitely too insecure to lie to someone’s face (come on, you know it’s necessary sometimes!) So when the security staff asks me whether the lens of my camera is removable, I start stammering instead of just denying it. Three people, who obviously don’t know the first thing about photography, eventually decide to confiscate my camera – seriously, people, it’s a wide angle lens on a tiny MFT body, it’s not like I could sell portraits of Flo or videos with decent audio, I just need a usable photo for my blog… Having no camera leaves me sulking for a few minutes while I hand in my coat. Then I go and buy a drink and some snacks. You know what always cheers me up!
When I reach the floor level, it is almost empty. I take a look around – mostly couples, groups of friends or parents with their older children. I spot a few singles: Strangely enough, they all seem to cling to the margins of the room, leaning against walls and barriers. I sit down in front of the stage amidst various groups of people.
So this is what it feels to be alone in a concert hall… actually, not too bad after all. After a day at work and a full weekend, I don’t feel that much like talking anyway, so I scroll through some newsfeeds on my phone, look for a few Christmas presents online and eat my nachos. The hour-long wait gets a bit boring, although when I put away the phone, it feels almost meditative to sit in a crowd of people and not talk to anybody, relaxing. I like it.
Around 8pm, the Palma Violets start playing. They play a nice set quite different from Florence’s style, but still in a similar direction. I suppose the support band can never really win, though, when everyone is just waiting for ‘the real band’… During the change of equipment, the first few rows become more packed. I still get to stand very close to the stage. It takes a while and being alone definitely doesn’t make the wait more exciting. But then, Florence + the Machine are on stage. And from that moment on, it’s not boring or awkward or anything anymore. No one cares whether I’m on my own, myself included, because Florence is the kind of entertainer that makes you forget your surroundings. Somehow, she brings in positive energy. There’s no more pushing, everyone starts to just enjoy the show. And what a show it is!
“When were you happiest?” “Either pottering around on my own or performing, so I don’t know what kind of person that makes me.” – Florence Welch in The Guardian
As she dances around the stage, Flo spreads an aura of calm excitement that is hard to understand but easy to adopt. I believe there are only two people who could ever make flared pants work: Elvis and Flo. She’s the most authentic hippie rockstar I’ve ever seen. Her performance is colourful, glamorous, epic and, most of all; her running, dancing, laughing and jumping is contagious from the first second. It’s a bouquet of happy moments, a little life advice in her funny stories, handshakes with fans when she walks right in front of the barriers or runs around the whole arena followed by her mane of flaming red hair, and moments of awestruck silence when she delivers emotional lyrics. Florence + the Machine only play for about two hours, but it feels much longer. In a finale, Flo asks everyone to “take something off and wave it above your heads – wave it for love, wave it for peace” during her smash hit Dog Days Are Over. It’s a splendid night and I would not have wanted to miss it for anything.
My results of going to a concert alone:
1 box of nachos. All mine!
1 hour waiting-time
1 girl on the shoulders of another, the climb assisted by me
1 irrationally placed hair bun in the front row
1 big close-up of Florence
1 girl dancing non stop (eek that’s me)
1 slightly awkward moment, when Flo asked everyone to hug and the groups around me did. Um.
1 awesome show!
Obviously, I wouldn’t say no if anyone wanted to come along next time and make that one awkward moment less awkward. But if not, I’ll still go…
How about you?