Hozier performed a stirring sold-out show in Charlotte for his birthday

  By Melissa Wylie

Cover photo: Ted Henn

March 18, 2019

For his birthday, Irish singer-songwriter Andrew Hozier-Byrne received a standing ovation from an adoring crowd at Ovens Auditorium on Sunday night.

Andrew Hozier-Byrne, who performs under the name Hozier, played a dynamic set to a sold-out audience. He captivated the Charlotte crowd with delicate instrumentals and rousing calls for clapping and stomping. The drums thundered through the auditorium as the feverish crowd cheered and swayed to the somber rhythm of his music.

The dramatic lighting alternated between illuminating the full band and spotlighting Hozier on his own. A draped curtain backdrop reflected a range of colors, from cool blues and purples to sinister reds, changing to match the emotion of each song.

English singer-songwriter Jade Bird served as the opening act, reflecting sorrow and heartbreak, she was a charming and energetic performer.

Bird took the crowd through her catalog of folk-pop, playing guitar alone onstage but evoking a presence through the volume and force of her voice. With a slight rasp, Bird was nearly shouting as she powered through her breakout single, “Lottery.”

The newcomer is set to release her self-titled debut album in April. Bird previewed those upcoming tracks and drew from her 2017 EP, Something American.

Hozier kicked off his North American tour on March 11 behind his latest album, Wasteland, Baby!, and Charlotte was among his first five stops– all sold-out shows.

With several guitars in constant rotation, Hozier stuck mostly to moody tracks from his latest album. Although the official release date was March 1, the crowd already seemed to cherish the new songs. A grandiose, percussion-heavy opening immediately got everyone on their feet.

Wasteland, Baby! earned the No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart last week. His 2014 debut self-titled album reached No. 2 thanks to the far-reaching success of the single “Take Me to Church.” He also received a Grammy nomination (Song of the Year) for the track.

“Take Me to Church” and a slowed-down, atmospheric version of “From Eden” were among the hits that Hozier played Sunday night. During “To Be Alone,” another track from the 2014 album, he played what resembled a cigar box guitar, elevating the song’s bluesy tinge. The twang of the guitar reverberated through the auditorium.

Compared to those earlier songs, tracks from Wasteland, Baby! convey more grim sentiments, as the album title suggests. But there’s an optimistic, hopeful attitude throughout. During the performance, Hozier and the backing musicians never lost energy or their connection with the crowd. They often encouraged the audience to clap and sing along, and Hozier led a call and response asking the crowd to sing harmonies back to him. The audience also stood in stillness in moments with their attention fixated onstage.

He took time between songs to share a bit of his inspiration, humorously acknowledging the bleak nature of the new music. For instance, the romantic track “Shrike” is named after a bird that impales its prey. He described the “terrifying” yet “elegant” characteristics of the shrike, adding with a chuckle that the bird inspired him to write a love song.

The anecdote summed up the essence of many songs from the new album– elegant and moving melodies that accompany earnest, dark lyrics. Hozier’s powerful voice increases the intensity of the songs, especially during a live performance.

Unguarded and sincere in his music, those same emotions came across during the show. As the crowd joined in singing happy birthday to Hozier, his appreciation seemed genuine. He also expressed gratitude for fans boosting the latest album to the top of the charts.

“That’s not my doing,” he told the audience. “That’s the doing of your support.”

Check out the remaining 2019 tour dates for Hozier.

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