Like devout worshippers, fans of Hozier who hadn’t had their fill of him the night before dutifully filed into the ornate Wang Theatre for a second time Wednesday evening. The Irish singer-songwriter stopped in Boston for two nights as part of his Wasteland! Baby tour to promote his 2019 album of the same name.
Australian singer-songwriter Angie McMahon opened the show. McMahon took a moment to acknowledge the indigenous land on which she and the rest of the audience was on as a respectful hush spread through the theater. She had a mellow stage presence, shooting off deadpan quips about the frigid weather. Yet, despite her self-deprecating attitude, when she opened her mouth for her first song, “If You Call,” a self-assured, raspy voice echoed through the room. With only her voice and an electric guitar, McMahon kept the audience remarkably rapt.
Smoke filled the stage as anticipation for Hozier grew. Suddenly, the stage was bathed in red light. A familiar long-haired silhouette casually strolled on and a ripple of excitement rushed through the crowd. Even though there were plushy seats in the theatre, most opted to stand for the entirety of Hozier’s set.
Hozier launched directly into “As It Was.” Heavy bass rumbled through the theater’s massive speakers, adding depth compared to the spare acoustic production of the original recording.
The enigmatic singer, perhaps hoping to preserve his sense of mystery, hardly uttered more than a few phrases between songs. When he did, though, he was almost drowned by the rapturous cheers of the crowd.
Halfway through his set, Hozier debuted a song that he plans to release in the coming months entitled “Jack Boot Jump.” He described the work as a protest song and explained that the inspiration behind the track came from the pro-democracy protests in Moscow and Hong Kong. “The hell with subtlety!” he declared before jumping into a bluesy riff. The twangy feel was emphasized by a brash, stomping drum beat.
The singer was backed by an enthusiastic seven-piece band that included a diverse menagerie of instruments, including violin and synths. The accompanying musicians added a new dimension to the songs and livened up the crowd with passionate solos.
The high point of the show came at its finale, during a performance of Hozier’s viral hit that initially launched him into stardom, “Take Me to Church.” An audience member threw a bisexual pride flag onto the stage. Hozier picked up the flag and gently draped it over his shoulder as he continued to sing. During heartfelt lyrics, he beat his chest with his hand, the flag fluttering behind him like a cape. Suddenly, another flag appeared, this time a lesbian pride flag. Hozier picked it up too and hung both flags carefully over his microphone stand to wild cheers from the audience.
It was an apt encapsulation of Hozier’s new ethos: fiery activism tempered by a calm, almost monk-like stage presence. Despite the gloom of the freezing November night, fans were bolstered by the singer’s quiet spirit of resistance and no doubt left the theater inspired to speak truth to power in their own way.
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor