Exceptionally talented singer songwriter Hozier made a marvelous stop at Grand Rapids’ 20 Monroe Live on Wednesday May 29th. The lovely venue was positively packed with excited fans, waiting to catch a glimpse and ear of Hozier’s latest album come to life.
Hozier, whose full name is Andrew Hozier-Byrne, is touring in support of his latest LP, “Wasteland, Baby!” The terrific album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 charts, leaving no doubt the musical world was eager for a follow up to his 2014 music.
Starting off the show was family band from New York, Bailen. The three members shared incredible harmonies, thoughtful lyrics, and unrivaled passion throughout their set. Their musical knowledge and depth shone bright throughout their performance, with close attention to every detail. Bailen kept an open dialogue with the crowd, presenting their music in a relatable way. The packed venue was with the band from the first note, cheering for both their music and stories.
At one point, vocalist Julia Bailen stated, “We are Bailen, as you can tell from our super expensive sign that we made”. The crowd chuckled along to the pointed out spelling of the band’s name in fluorescent tape. Bailen conveyed exceptional tracks from their debut album, “Thrilled To Be Here”, which came out earlier this year.
They even humorously touched on their first time shopping at Meijer (if you’re not aware, it’s our local Midwest one-stop grocery giant).
With vocals from every member, Bailen closed out with a couple of tremendous songs like “Not Gonna Take Me”, a powerful track about mental health with a groovy Graceland-vibed bassline. Last, the band welcomed their final song and thanked the audience for listening. Bailen asked, “Would it be cool if we have another soft song?” The crowd responded with a resounding cheer. Every member rounded out the vocals of acoustic track, “25 For The Last Time”.
The audience reciprocated gratitude with thrilled applause at the end of their set. Bailen thanked the crowd once more, and bowed before exiting the stage.
Right after 9 PM, Hozier stepped to the stage with the heavy drum introduction of “Would That I”. The audience was amped and excited, right from the start. Hozier delivered exceptionally passionate vocals and a full force energy throughout the entirety of the beautiful song, with the crowd singing the chorus’ carrying “woahs”. His incredible talent was on full display from the beginning of the set, along with that of his band.
Next the band rocked into “Dinner & Diatribes”, with the audience clapping along to the beat. The crowd swelled and cheered for Hozier’s pristine tone and vocal additions.
Sans his guitar, Hozier moved right into the phenomenal track, “Nina Cried Power”. He added improvised lyrics and shout outs to fellow musicians who have cried for change. Before the final chorus, he picked up his guitar and jammed with fellow musician, the stylish Suzanne Santo.
Hozier greeted the crowd for the first time with, “How are you doing this evening Grand Rapids? It is very good to see you”. He encouraged everyone to make some noise for Bailen, who opened up the show. He continued, “Usually this part of the set if there was seating in front of us, I’d encourage people to get the fuck out of their seats”. He informed everyone that “rapid” back home means “fucking great”. “We knew we’d have a good crowd, that was a good omen. In Dublin language, Grand Rapids is like the best thing”. He started into “Someone New”, beginning a trend of fluctuating between music past and present. His band completed the music’s sound fully and flawlessly.
Hozier went into “Angel Of Small Death And The Codeine Scene”, which included a Suzanne Santo violin solo, whilst Hozier shredded on guitar.
“Nobody” began with acoustic instrumentation. Drums kicked in and completed the song’s full sound. For the personified lyric, “I once warmed my hands over a burning Maserati”, Hozier put out his hands, as if warming them over a fire.
During the set, Hozier swapped between several guitars, giving each song a different sound and feel. With each carried note of poetic prose, the audience cheered along, recognizing every detail of the poignant lyrics. Hozier regularly added extra musicality with both tangible and vocal instruments.
Later, Hozier encouraged the crowd to not be afraid to sing along. The band presented a slowed tempo version of the smash, “From Eden”. The crowd sang as cell phone flashlights waved along.
Hozier touched on his experience in writing the new record with the state of the world. “I don’t know if you’re familiar with the doomsday clock. They moved it forward two minutes to midnight, so I was enjoying that feeling”. The crowd laughed along to the welcome sarcasm, in light of a dim time. “…and Writing a few love songs for the end of the world. This next song falls into that category. It’s called ‘Wasteland, Baby!’” He presented the latest album’s beautiful acoustic title track.
After the stunning song, “Shrike”, Hozier continued his conversation with the crowd. “I know we’re joking about how the world ends and stuff like this. This next song is something far far worse to look forward to. It’s based on the work of a scientist called Katie Mack who has a book coming out describing how all the stars will one day grow dark… So it’s just something nicer. Don’t sweat the small things. It’s called ‘No Plan’”.
At the start of “To Be Alone”, the stage was bathed in red light as Alex Ryan added the song’s heavy synth sound. Hozier encouraged the crowd by saying, “Prove you have amazing pipes and can sing like no one else”. He started into the song’s vocal chant, as the crowd echoed back every note.
Hozier welcomed his new single with a brief story. “It’s kind of about the feeling of hearing a sweet piece of music that you know and love, and bringing it you back to someplace that you really don’t want to go back to…you’re trying to get away from. It’s appropriately named ‘Almost (Sweet Music)’”.
During the stunning track, “Movement”, an array of small lights angled into the crowd. Hozier picked up a tambourine for the final chorus, with his fellow musicians filling out the vocals.
To close out, Hozier started into his monster hit, “Take Me To Church”. He sang without a guitar, passionately covering the stage. During the ending chorus, he stepped down into the pit, reaching into the crowd. He help out his mic to amplify the packed venue singing along. When the song concluded, Hozier applauded his band and help up signs of gratitude. With a wave, they exited the stage.
Phone flashlights illuminated endless applause that reached a crescendo when Hozier returned to the stage.
Hozier addressed the audience… “Again, if you know this next one, don’t be afraid to let me hear you”. With just an acoustic guitar, he began the gorgeous track, “Cherry Wine”. During the closing chorus, Hozier let the audience sing and encouraged, “You sound beautiful!”
When the song completed he welcomed endearingly, “Please welcome the band back on the stage. I’m going to introduce these wonderful people”. Hozier proceeded to not only introduce each of his band members, but everyone behind the scenes making the show possible. He also motivated the audience, “If you could make one hell of a noise for Bailen who opened up the show.”
Hozier then thanked the audience for “making this a very very special evening. You have been just a spectacular audience to play to, I mean that sincerely. Thank you so much….. This is a song called ‘Work Song’”. The crowd welcomed the beautiful track with a cheer.
The stage illuminated from behind, adding the perfect vibe for the emotional song. To conclude, the band ended “Work Song” with a tremendously stunning harmony. The members bowed and thanked the audience again, concluding an absolutely astounding evening.
Wasteland, Baby! is a tour that finds that finds Irish gentleman Hozier growing not only in his amazing musical abilities, but also his presence as a performer.
Thus far, the tour has been a resounding success with many sold out shows. Hozier will continue with concerts throughout the US, Canada, and across Europe into November.
Words and photos by: Tiffany Cuthrell