For Hozier, music is only part of the show
Hozier started his DC show true to how most people may think of the artist – alone on stage as a solo singer/songwriter gliding through a broody, building melody, in this case with “As It Was.”
But as the opening song came to a close, a rapid transition occurred as the Irishman was flanked by a full band, backup singers, and a hypnotic lights and video board compilation featuring imagery of social issues, progressive leaders, and potential world-ending disasters. Hozier’s soulful voice is the hook that lures fans in, but the artist clearly believes that his music is only one element of his performances.
The multi-dimensional show was a reflection of "Wasteland, Baby!," a multi-dimensional sophomore album, and the multi-dimensional album is a reflection of Hozier’s multi-dimensional mind. The 29 year old’s thoughtful, introspective wiring is mixed with intrigue for science and philosophy and theory, which the crowd received tastes of throughout Monday night.
Hozier’s meditative nature reveals itself during stripped-down songs like “Cherry Wine" and "Work Song," but he takes another step in exposing a different side of his personality fueled by social consciousness and curiosity through his latest album's lineup.
During “Nina Cried Power,” the big, high-energy lead single from his 2018 EP, Hozier was backed by a video montage featuring flashes from women’s marches, pride parades, post-disaster relief efforts, and other scenes of humanity in its rawest forms. “Jack Boot Jump,” Hozier’s newest track he’s debuting on tour, was led with the Irishman sharing his support of Hong Kong's pro-democracy protests. Prior to “No Plan,” Hozier mused on an apocalyptic book outlining the five most likely ways the human race will die. Just a singer/songwriter, Hozier is not.
While "Wasteland, Baby!" offers more glimpses into Hozier’s character than 2014’s self-titled album, his talent still shines through the most when he slows things down, peels back the superfluous, and simply gets lost in a song with his voice and guitar. “Shrike” may have been the best track of the evening, a spellbinding five minutes during which the guitar riff and rich vocals fully absorbed the audience in a moment of pure serenity.
Hozier has the luxury of being able to alternate between tranquility and boisterousness without losing quality, his edge of blues serving as the common thread that binds the variety found in his two albums. And while his variety helps elevate his performances, at the end of the night it still feels as though music is only part of the show.
As Hozier closed his pre-encore set with “Take Me to Church,” the single that put him on the map in 2013 and the artist’s first real exercise in social commentary through song, the track’s music video rolled for the venue. In it, a gay couple is hunted and assaulted by other men in the community, and images of the men sharing time together and kissing are juxtaposed with scenes of a masked mob raiding one of the men's houses and beating him. Chills-inducing.
Maybe it’s because The Anthem sits 1.8 miles from the White House, 1.4 miles from the Capitol, and 1.9 miles from the Supreme Court. Maybe it’s because the world seems particularly complex and polarized as it stands. But there was something extra poignant about the blend of song and social activism Hozier brought to the District. The music was the vehicle through which Hozier made a plea for more love, more unification, and a more empathetic approach to being human. You came to hear Hozier’s music, but you left with much more.
As It Was
Dinner & Diatribes
Nina Cried Power
To Be Alone
Jackie and Wilson
Jack Boot Jump
Living for the City (Stevie Wonder cover)
Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene
Almost (Sweet Music)
Moment's Silence (Common Tongue)
Take Me to Church
Reviewed by Kayla Wilkinson, photos by Xavier Dussaq.