Hozier had us feeling passionate at Cal Cost Open Air Theater with Madison Ryann Ward

Hozier’s indie rock and rustic guitar took every audience member to his church.

In 2019, Hozier has stayed true to his original folksy sound despite his new album release entitled Wasteland, Baby! The new album was crafted with more obvious gospel undertones and felt more produced with the incorporation of more instruments and heavy background vocals. This gospel shift is apparent in tracks like “Nina Cried Power,” and as he performed the old and new tracks differently live with the band and back up singers behind him. 

Madison Ryann Ward, the opening act, shocked me with her first song. Her tone and vocal ability instantly gave me a Colbie Callait vibe but more acoustic. Her falsetto was very strong and so were her lyrics. One of my favorite aspects of her performance was that it was just her and her guitar. It is very rare to see such a minimalist presentation nowadays in terms of a performer putting on a set without overproduction. For Madison Ward it was definitely about the music. Her soft acoustic sound paired with her refreshing and honest lyrics created such a vulnerable feeling that immediately captured my attention and made me want to know more about the stories she wanted to tell with her music. She opened her heart up to the audience with her meaningful songs and performance. 

 

Hozier started the show with a strong mysterious presence and began to lure us in to his truth. He was surrounded by an entire band of 7 people with keys, synth, bass, guitar, and back up vocalists. Hozier was here to give us a show and show how he has grown. Hozier opened with “As It Was” and the audience fell into the performance with all its red lights and smoke machines.

Midway through his setlist, Hozier played “From Eden;” the track had gained more instruments but still had the lullaby like trance. He sounded exactly like he did on my headphones — the passion and inflection of his voice was just so much better. He brought old tracks back like “To Be Alone” with new energy and vitality and his high notes were clear and controlled, bringing more life to each track. 

“Movement” got a lot of love and everyone put up their flashlights and swayed in support of the track and for Hozier himself. Hozier creates space with his gospel and bluesy music for different people to come together and be vulnerable about heartbreak and love.

Hozier announced that he’s “hoping to have new music out before Christmas!” He performed a new unreleased song called “Jack Boot Jump” where he shared his point of view on the crazy events unfolding around the world in Moscow, China, and Chile. He admitted that he’s not sure if he would like to label this a protest song, but he definitely shared how he felt and how some people are experiencing a great deal of pain and oppression in other countries.

Set List

As It Was
Dinner & Diatribes
Nina Cried Power
To Be Alone
Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene
Someone New
Nobody
Talk
Jack Boot Jump
From Eden
Shrike
No Plan
Living for the City
(Stevie Wonder cover)
Jackie and Wilson
Almost (Sweet Music)
Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue)
Movement
Take Me to Church
Cherry Wine
Work Song

Review by: Dominique Torres
Photos by: Mashal Rasul
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