After a long wait, Hozier’s character and style came through for a night of music and fun
If I had to choose one word to describe Hozier’s Wasteland, Baby! Tour, it would be “simple.” Andrew “Hozier” Byrne took the stage at Chrysler Hall in Norfolk, Virginia on Thursday, March 14 and gave the city a taste of his first album in over four years. Known to play only small venues, Hozier gave a performance that resembled his character: down to earth, carefree and simple.
The opening act, Jade Bird, set the tone for the entire performance. Bird stood alone on stage with only a guitar in hand as she played some of her original music. Her bright red jumpsuit and her raspy vocals called for all eyes on her. She talked casually with the audience as she gave brief explanations of her songs. Before playing one of her more solemn pieces, she stopped and said, “We all get like that sometimes, right? Just sad…” she chuckled. “Oh, well.” She shrugged and went on to play her piece.
She charmed the audience with her quirkiness and humility. “Thank you, thank you,” she said after every song.
After walking off the stage at a 8:45 p.m., the crowd was ready. They wanted Hozier.
Finally, the clock hit 9 p.m. After four years of no new music, after months of waiting for these tickets, and after hours of prepping for the concert, the wait was finally over.
The tall, lengthy musician followed his band out on stage as the crowd roared in excitement. He bowed his head gently and gave a subtle wave to the audience as he strolled onto the oriental carpet. He went straight to his guitar and the crowd went straight to their feet.
He was grinning uncontrollably. The audience reflected his enthusiasm.
Few modern artists seem to enjoy playing their music as much as he did. His face showed passion with every chord he strummed. Every now and then, he would turn around to his band and play with them, not in front of them. His humility was obvious. He was truly there for the sole purpose of sharing music. And his excitement was contagious.
“I couldn’t tell you what a joy it is to see you all,” he said to the crowd. “It’s my first time in your beautiful city.” He went on to praise Bird’s talents and thanked the audience for giving her a warm welcome.
“Some of these songs are being played in front of an audience for the very first time,” Hozier told the crowd, adding to the personal appeal of the show. “That’s the case for these next two songs…I hope you enjoy.” He proceeded to play a song that wasn’t featured on his Wasteland, Baby! album.
Although the audience was excited to be the first crowd to hear some of his newer music, that magic fizzled out because with each song from his new album came more lyrics the crowd didn’t know. To be fair, the album he was touring for only came out two weeks prior to the show, whereas the fans have had four years to relish in his first album. After four years of hearing those songs on discs and through earbuds, I think the audience would have appreciated to hear more of that music live.
So, yes, it might have been better if he had played more of his older music. But perhaps that’s just not what Hozier fans should expect. He’s not flashy, he’s not a pop-artist, he’s a musician. He came to share that. In some sense, not knowing the setlist by heart sort of forced the crowd to listen to the music and truly grasp the essence of the songs. There’s no doubt he gave a great musical performance. But, it did seem to be more of a performance and less of a concert.
But, to a fan, the show probably seemed to fit his character.
And the fandom was obvious when he strummed the first chord of the fan-favorite “Jackie and Wilson” from his first album. The crowd went crazy. It seemed like every person in the building was singing. And that–the sound of the fans singing along–is what brought the show together.
Again, Hozier smiled. From the top of the nose-bleeds, I could see it–we all could. He was loving every second.
Finally, he remarked on his album Wasteland, Baby! being the number one album in the United States.
“That’s not my doing,” he said. “It’s yours. So, thank you.”
Every time he spoke, the crowd fell silent. Nobody wanted to miss a single word he said. Like Bird, Hozier was charming as he talked to the audience. It was candid and almost conversational. He gave background on his new song “Shrike” and told of the meaning behind it. He ran his hands through his shoulder-length, brown hair as he spoke. It all felt so natural. The fans didn’t scream and cry like obsessed groupies–rather, it was a mature and fluid atmosphere.
He went on to thank every member of his band, one by one, with a brief introduction for each. But it didn’t stop there. He thanked the crew, all by name, for the tour and the show. And then finally, he thanked us– his fans. We responded in cheers and applause.
He played “Take Me To Church,” his most popular single, and the crowd sang the lyrics to him–allowing them to show him why they were there. Those lyrics were all too familiar, and yet, never got old.
Hozier came back out for an encore and, for the first time all night, he was alone on stage. He had a single spotlight on him and a guitar in his hands, just as his opener, Bird, had done. He ended with “Cherry Wine” and “Work Song” from his first album, and the crowd knew the words like the back of their hands.
We stood there with him, singing together–smiling together.
Nothing brings people together like music. Hozier knew that.
He called his band out for a traditional curtain call on those same oriental rugs. With another smile, bow, and wave of his hand, Hozier turned to walk off stage. He put his hand over his heart and gave one last genuine grin.
From the front row to the nose-bleeds, you could tell it was a pleasure for him to perform. But, really, the pleasure was ours.
It was a night of good music. It was nothing flashy. It was simple. It was Hozier.
~Anna Thomas, Staff Writer~