Florence + the Machine, the musical project of the English singer-songwriter Florence Welch, is known for its dazzling live shows — spectacles where, as she puts it, she is “in the mix, touching people, holding their hands” as they sing along with her anthemic, yet crystalline songs. But in the wake of the pandemic, Welch had to adjust to the idea that those concerts might not happen anymore — and then she had to re-recalibrate once live music came back.
“I’m kind of a catastrophist in my head anyway,” notes Welch by phone. “But there were definitely a few moments where I thought live music would never come back — or if it does, it’s not coming back for five years or six years. The realization that it had come back was something that I couldn’t process. I had to almost come to terms with performance maybe not being part of my job anymore.”
“By the time I got to [playing] festivals, there was a moment where I breathed out, and I was like, ‘It’s back. It’s here.’ ”
Welch and her band, who play TD Garden on Wednesday, released their fifth album, “Dance Fever,” in May. One of its highlights is the triumphant, thrumming synthpop track “Free,” which sounds like a story of being liberated by song — ”I hear the music/I feel the beat/And for a moment when I’m dancing/I am free, I am free,” Welch wails on the chorus, her voice breaking on the titular word. It invites catharsis, and audiences have responded passionately to its call for being unburdened. “It’s such a funny thing, because that song was written in 2019. It was the last song that I wrote before I had to go home for the first UK lockdown,” she notes. “It’s so funny that all the songs on this record that you would have thought would have been written in the middle of the pandemic were actually written before.”
Even before it was released as a single this spring, “Free” had a hold over Florence + the Machine’s audiences. “It happens a few times in your career when a song just instantly connects,” she says. “It’s been so special. It’s a really new song, but there is just something about it. It’s one of those songs that, live, it’s magical.”
“Dance Fever,” which was recorded over the pandemic, blends cuts like “Free” with mini-epics like the defiant “King” and the stark “Cassandra,” showcasing Welch’s formidable yet fluttering voice. The album recalls Florence + the Machine’s earlier, gothier efforts, which was inspired in part by Welch’s pandemic tastes in film. “I got super into horror because it was, in lockdown, the only thing that I could watch,” she laughs. “ ’Cause it was the only thing that could hold my anxiety, and also the only thing that could keep my focus. I’d never been a horror buff before at all. The inside of my head is scary enough; I don’t need to be scared recreationally.
“But [during] that period of life, I was so unable to process things that it felt like romcoms were like the horror movies, because it was people touching each other in a lost world that we just had no access to. People would be having a nice time in a restaurant, and kissing, and the grief — I couldn’t watch something like that for a while, because it was at that point in time like a lost world that we didn’t know when it was going to come back.”
Welch realized that watching people having “a really terrible time” was more in line with her mental state, so she plunged into psychological horror, watching recent films like the Scandinavian grotesque “Midsommar” as well as classic nail-biters like “The Shining” and “Suspiria.” “There was something about it where it could hold the feelings that I was having much better than any other genre,” she says. “And the colors! Both the original and the remake [of ‘Suspiria,’] are both really good, and the colors in the original ‘Suspiria’ are just insane.”
That blend of the beautiful and the terrifying animates “Dance Fever” tracks like the slow-burning “Choreomania,” which takes the affliction outlined in the album’s title and turns it into the defining trait of a woman who’s had it — ”And I am freaking out in the middle of the street/With the complete conviction of someone/Who has never had anything actually really bad happen to them,” Welch intones at the song’s outset, before it blazes into a full-on rallying cry for anyone who feels an ominous shiver about the world. But what makes Florence + the Machine such a rewarding listen is that they take those uneasy feelings and turn them inside out to find beauty in them — whether listening alone on headphones or in a packed arena with Welch in the pit.
Maura Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
FLORENCE + THE MACHINE
With Sam Fender. At TD Garden, Sept. 14. 617-624-1000, tdgarden.com