Concerts have taken a strange shift over the years. Now, it’s more about who can make it bigger, better, louder. There are light shows and technical displays. It’s almost a competition, an art show within a concert.
That’s why Hozier’s live performance is a breath of fresh air.
Hozier kicked off his “Wasteland, Baby!” tour a week ago in New York. On Thursday, March 14, he made a stop in Norfolk, Va.
“Wasteland, Baby!” is Hozier’s sophomore album. It was released March 1, just a couple of short months after the release of his “Nina Cried Power EP.” While it’s been a long four years since he has released music, his latest album showed that he’s not ready to stray too far away from the alt-folk sound that he established with his debut.
He’s no stranger to playing shows, though, after the wild success of his “Take Me To Church,” Hozier did the festival rounds and toured for years before settling on taking a break.
Hozier’s vocals and movements on stage were effortless. He gracefully flowed between songs, and once the opening notes to “Nina Cried Power” came through, the crowd was ready to get things rolling. When it was followed by “Jackie And Wilson,” well, that just really kicked things off.
Hozier flew through his setlist, stopping to introduce tracks like the title track “Wasteland, Baby!” and crowd favorite “Shrike.”
The album “Wasteland, Baby!” is full of pop-inspired folk songs mixed with indie-rock ballads. Hozier’s setlist proved to be a perfect division of slow and fast. “Almost (Sweet Music)” and “Nobody” both equally as fun to sing along to, lightening the crowd up.
Along with singles off the new album, Hozier also performed a smattering of songs off his debut. “To Be Alone” made the cut along with “Someone New.” Hozier also threw in “From Eden” and it was nice to hear some deeper cuts off his debut paired with the newer singles.
“Take Me To Church” was played before the band went off stage for the encore. Hozier allowed the crowd to sing most of the first verse before he chimed in at the chorus, involving the crowd in his most popular single. And while it will always be a track Hozier is recognized for, he tended to show more enthusiasm towards some of his other tracks like “Shrike.”
The encore featured ballads “Cherry Wine” and “Work Song,” an odd choice to end a show with. Both songs move slowly, though sweetly. While most shows tend to end upbeat and loud, Hozier ended on a more subdued note.
Everything felt genuine and real. For 90 minutes, the crowd got to feel like Hozier was singing to just them and them alone. Hozier found his true talent in simplicity, enjoying the music he’s written and enjoying how people responded to his music. His smooth and comforting voice mixed with his quippy lyricism already makes him an attractive musician, but his refusal to succumb to over-the-top live performance tropes is what made this concert special.
Article by Lindsey Lanham
All photos by Garnette Ransone