Prior to this month, I’d seen Hozier perform one song live. In 2015, I went to Bonnaroo Music Festival in the Middle of Nowhere, Tennessee. I was most excited to see Hozier, and scored an awesome spot right in front of the lights display. He came on stage and played an incredible rendition of “Like Real People Do.” Right after that, I received a text telling me my best friend was passed out in my tent and I had to go back and make sure he was okay. Ever since that day, I’ve felt an undying need to see a full Hozier set, as well as a slight disdain for my best friend Alex.
I finally had the opportunity to see Hozier again when he came to the Fillmore Oct. 3.
The opening act was another Irish band called Hudson Taylor. Decked out in folksy clothing, the seven piece band hopped on stage and began performing with electric energy. The two lead singers were brothers, and the back-up singer was their sister. The family affair belted out lively tunes which, although few in the audience knew the actual words, had the audience jumping and grooving. The band used a variety of interesting instruments, such as a box drum and a harmonica. There were even two flute solos. They played for about 30 minutes, but their set was so fun that it felt like it was over too quick.
The stage went black and under the cover of darkness, Hozier’s band took the stage. The crowd began to shout as Hozier’s massive silhouette lumbered to the front of the stage. The lights turned on as Hozier began “Like Real People Do,” a slow burning love affair. As the bridge turned into the chorus, the lights shown even brighter on Hozier’s band, and a powerful melody of back-up singers and drums made me realize this show would be well worth the wait.
Hozier’s last, and only, full length album was released in 2014. This gap in releases made this show very special, as the entire audience knew the words to his songs. In between his own singing, you could hear the echo of his words being sung by the sold-out audience. Only a few weeks ago, Hozier released a small, four-track EP, which he also played during the show. These tracks garnered just as much fanfare as his classic tracks.
Hozier’s folksy sound is reassuring and smooth, but his live tracks have a whole new meaning. His backing band also brought along eclectic instruments, from violins to a full organ, giving each song a lush sound. “Jackie and Wilson” was upbeat and bouncy, “To Be Alone” was explosive and powerful and “NFWMB” was somber and aching. One of the stand-out tracks was the simplest. Near the middle of the set, Hozier’s band left the stage, leaving the denim-clad songwriter alone with only a guitar. He delved into “Cherry Wine,” a quiet acoustic love song that fostered stillness in the audience at some points, and collective “aw’s” at others.
Hozier rounded out his set with his smash hit “Take Me To Church,” the romantic ballad that reached the No. 2 spot on the Billboard charts. He thanked the audience and left the stage, but the audience wanted more. Prodded by the audience’s deafening cheers, Hozier and his band came back. He told the audience that since they were so energetic, we would get a treat. Kind of the opposite of what you do with a dog. His band began playing something that was indiscernible until Hozier began crooning “Say my name, say my name.” Our treat was for the lanky Irish man to sing a stripped down version of Destiny Child’s 1999 classic. He gave us one last treat: a soothing rendition of “Work Song.” Hozier and company then left the stage for good, hopefully to return to Philadelphia soon.