Written by Paige Tamasi
When Hozier released his third album ‘Unreal Unearth’ earlier this year, I hoped a tour would follow, and low and behold, I was right. The ‘Unreal Unearth’ tour started in November and will last until December 17th, before continuing again in the new year.
I managed to weasel my way into getting tickets for his sold-out opening night in the UK, and boy am I glad I did. Let me tell you, this concert was a surreal piece of poetry.
The show was opened by The Last Dinner Party, an all-female indie rock band, who blew me away with their layered vocals and the energy they brought to the arena. Their music felt along the lines of Hozier’s discography, just with the added bonus of 70s rock and influence from David Bowie.
The first thing I noticed at this concert was the lights. The stage was empty as everyone flocked to their seats and the only lights were the blue ones flooding the stage and the purple accents highlighting the entrances and exits to the stadium. This theme of cool-toned light persisted throughout Hozier’s concert, contrasting with the earthy elements of the backdrop and the dark academic three-piece suit Hozier wore.
Natural imagery abounds in this show, beginning with The Last Dinner Party titling Hozier’s ‘Forest Father’. From the audience, the lights were projected at various levels, all overlapping. To me, the silhouette that was created through these lights was reminiscent of a forest. The backdrop continually projected various monochrome music video scenes, each with a different natural element. From the tides of the coast to going deep into the earth and showing the roots of daisies.
Now these roots were a persistent theme during this show. Tying into the tour’s album cover of dirt and grime, when the background projection of roots rose away from audience perception, a physical set of roots descended to further the immersion bringing the show closer to the audience. It wasn’t until ‘Almost (Sweet Music)’ that this set rose back up and the background projection changed from beneath the earth to a rising sun. The lighting adjusted with this set change, changing from the near-constant cool-toned blues, purples and pinks, to a soft golden hue.
The music, the reason for the whole show, did not disappoint. There is nothing bad to say about what I heard. People were crying, laughing, screaming —the noise was infectious and people were so excited for the show. So when all was silenced by the first few notes of ‘De Selby (Part 1)’, believe me when I say that the music was soulful. The rhythmic beating of the drums, the richness from the cello, and the high strings from the violin were vital to the music, providing that deep fusion from the electric guitars to the folk-gospel genre that Hozier dominates. If you have ever listened to a Hozier song, you would know what I mean when I say that Hozier’s lyrics are poetry. I would buy an anthology of these songs in a poetry section. I would analyze these poems for their Southern Gothic meanings and Romantic undertones. I would lament over them like an angsty Victorian woman. Hozier’s songs are dynamic and moving, pushing the audience to tears or causing them to pull their loved ones into a slow dance. I could see couples, all along the pit’s floor, gazing into each other’s eyes, as they let Hozier speak the words from their hearts. There is something about Hozier’s diction and phrasing that inspires people to connect on a spiritual level.
Hozier himself commented on this, giving a speech about the history of music that inspired him. The history of Nina Simone and the music from the American Civil Rights Movement, and how that music and social fight inspired the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland. He did this immediately after performing his most listened-to song ‘Take Me to Church’, a ballad about the religious turmoil that affects many LGBTQ+ people. Afterwards, he belted out a duet version of ‘Nina Cried Power’, a direct call back to Nina Simone and her activism. Now the political nature of this speech can not be ignored, and many people believe that artists should stay out of politics. But Hozier wasn’t speaking in favour of one action or another, he was simply saying that people should love one another. The theme of love is so prevalent throughout his discography that it’s obvious how deep an emotion love is. From writing songs that go deeper beyond ‘I love you’- to encouraging people around the world to love each other- Hozier’s concert was a beautiful reminder that we are all of the earth and we all feel love, so why not love each other?
Throughout the show Hozier ensured to give each of his bandmates moments to shine, backing away from the literal spotlight in favour of naming them and spreading the love from fans to them. Sending the message that he couldn’t have done this alone. He shouted out every cast member and what they did, no matter how ‘little’ a job they did. Hozier was determined that everyone got recognition. Even apologising widely and publicly if he has “neglected you…It takes a village.”
After the show ended people were abuzz. I overheard many people crying, laughing, and still singing the previously performed songs. I heard one young woman say “At any given moment I didn’t know whether to cry or to be happy”, and that is what the show was about. It was about such emotional music, emphasised by the lighting and set, that people were overcome with emotion. Hozier’s concert in Liverpool, UK, was stunning and a work of art. There is so much more to say, but I think Hozier sums it up best: love is “bloody and raw, but I swear it is sweet” (‘Angel Of Small Death And The Codeine Scene’).
Written by Paige Tamasi, Edited by Chloe Hayler, Photography by Paige Tamasi, Published by Paige Tamasi.