Hozier Fights the Good Fight Against a Chatty Houston Crowd
Photos by Jack Gorman
Hozier Warehouse Live March 19, 2k15
For about five songs it looked like Hozier's debut performance in Houston was going to be a triumph.
He hit the stage and from the start he and his bandmates sounded great. The songs early in the set were upbeat and catchy and just flat out good, the types of songs you long to hear at concerts sometimes. The crowd was loud in their approval, almost louder than the music on stage, and people seemed really in to singing along.
And then it happened. He slowed it down. He got quiet. He played a beautiful duet with cellist Alana Henderson. And it was at that moment that the dragon that is talkative Houston crowds reared its ugly head.
The show would recover, eventually, but this was probably not the dress rehearsal anyone was hoping for before he returns to town next month.
The good news for those of you who have tickets for his second sold out show here in town in as many months is that Hozier and company put on a pretty good live show. Him and his team are tight and have done a fine job of taking his songs and tweaking them in ways that make them really shine.
It's not as if his songs were bad or anything, it's just that their studio versions were missing a spark. Or at least, you may think that once you hear them live.
"Jackie and Wilson" is a great number that would be a much better Song of the Summer than whatever overproduced mess that will end up dominating the charts later this year. "Someone New" had a layer of lush vocals - dude has like 5 or 6 people up on stage singing along with him at times - that didn't quite turn it in to a revival but still created a nice space to be in. Even a song like "Alone With You" which does kind of drag on the album sounded like some sort of dark Southern masterpiece, the soundtrack for a montage in some swampy crime drama.
Even the stuff after the crowd started to tune out was still uniformly great. "Foreigner's God," "Like People Do," his cover of Skip James "Illinois Blues," it was all rock solid. But then right around the time that "Sedated" appeared in the set the crowd came back around. They'd didn't shush much, but enough where it seemed like more people were focused on the music than themselves.
And then in a delightful bit of flipping the script, he ended his main set with "Take Me to Church." Having heard The Song, a healthy chunk of the crowded headed for the doors. Their loss, because the encore included "Cherry Wine" and a more fun than you might guess cover of Amerie's "1 Thing."
Seriously, the cover was so amazing it deserves its own paragraph.
So yes, the good news is if you missed this show but have tickets for his performance next month, you should officially be getting excited because you're in for a treat. The bad news is that the treat is going to come with another Houston crowd, a bigger Houston crowd at that.
But maybe things will be different. Maybe Houston will live up to the performance on stage. Maybe the crowd will take seriously the unspoken but understood pact between performer and audience that we're all in this together and both have roles to play in making a show a success.
Or you can just hope that he releases a live album. That's something he should do, talkative crowds or not.
Personal Bias: Honestly, I think "Take Me to Church" is one of Hozier's weaker songs.
The Crowd: Lots of ladies who knew all the words to the songs. Lots of dudes in flannel. Lots of people in general.
Overheard in the Crowd: "You're gonna hate us," said a group of ladies who asked my +1 to take photos of them multiple times over the course of the night. Too late. #passiveagressiveoverheardsinthecrowd
Random Notebook Dump: I've been trying to figure out what the bass in the chorus of "Take Me to the Church" reminds me of and finally it came to me while waiting to get in to the show. It's Pink Floyd's "Have a Cigar." I acknowledge I may be the only person that hears it though.
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