Hozier – The Wiltern (Los Angeles, CA) – 10.08.2018

Words by Grace Gibney
Photos by Angelica Nicolle Abalos

In all of its 87 years, the art-deco landmark that is the Wiltern has seen its share of artists and performers, but Hozier may be the first artist that similarly shares an old-soul sort of brevity.

At age 25, Andrew Hozier-Byrne’s head was spinning. In 2015 “Take Me to Church” sky-rocketed up the Billboard Hot 100 to the number two seat, lingering on pop radio for months afterwards. His self-titled album was releasing soon. The former college dropout had finally made it big after picking up a series of open mic gigs around Dublin for two years.

Now age 28, Hozier is on the verge of releasing his second album, the title of which still remains a mystery. According to a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Hozier has flown between London and L.A. stringing the songs together, working with producer greats Markus Dravs (Arcade Fire, Coldplay) and Rob Kirwan (U2, Depeche Mode), who helped produce his self-titled debut. After announcing tour dates in July of this year, Hozier released the “Nina Cried Power” EP on Sept. 6, alluding to the new album to come.

The sold-out show on Oct. 8 at the Wiltern brimmed with fans waiting to hear their favorite track from “Hozier”. The opening rag-tag, Irish folk band Hudson Taylor filled all 1,850 seats with lively, yet anxious energy. When the Irishman and his band walked casually on stage and opened with “Like Real People Do”, the audience exhaled at last.

While the folksy, blues-driven tracks of “Hozier” were inwardly focused on the ebbs and flows that come with relationships, the tracks of “Nina Cried Power” have a more outwardly, political focus. Following the opener, it was the EP’s self-titled track that dressed the art-deco walls with color. The gospel-tinged song features the names of longstanding freedom-fighters of the past: Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, and Nina Simone, whom the song was named after. Soon, the theatre was spilling over with voices following along to “Jackie and Wilson” and “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene”.

Before embarking on “NFWMB”, Hozier addressed the song’s dark, solemn tones as a love song at the end of the world. “When I first saw you/ the end was soon/ to Bethlehem it slouched/ and then, it must’ve caught a look at you.” Hozier’s use of the phrase “to Bethlehem it slouched” points to poet W. B. Yeats’ “The Second Coming”, a poem that affirms a new earth and spiritual refreshment is the only way to start anew. Until love at first sight, that is.

Though most known for the folksy, rock vibes of “Take Me to Church”, it’s Hozier’s solo performances that have always set him apart. “Cherry Wine” was recorded as a live track on his first album and it was performed rightly so at the Wiltern. It was four minutes comprised of a man, his voice, a guitar, and his audience. It was intimate and lovely, yet sad, leaving the listener with a combination of goosebumps and chills.

Hozier continued with songs with his upcoming album, including “Shrike”, “Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue)”, and a special performance of “Movement’, a song which has yet to be released. The upcoming album is anticipated to be an intersection of Hozier’s activism and artistry, and he hopes “it’s taken with a bit of a pinch of salt” in an interview with NPR.

The performance of new tracks, as well as first-album favorites was heartfelt. The closeness of Hozier’s strumming and gruff lyrics can be felt with every listen to his songs, but it’s never truly heard until you shares the same air as the Irishman. Hozier closed with “Work Song”, reminding the audience it was, in fact, a Monday evening and the rest of the week lay ahead.