It may be a little too on the nose to say that Hozier took the crowd at the Grand Ole Opry to church last Sunday, but that’s precisely what he did when he played to the sold-out Nashville crowd.
In 2013, the Irish singer/songwriter, born Andrew Hozier-Byrne, rose to fame with his track “Take Me to Church,” which became an international sensation. The song topped the charts in 12 different countries, catapulting Hozier’s career.
At Sunday’s show, there was talk about revelation, as in the inspiration for “Wasteland, Baby” the title track of the singer’s newest album, as well as the name of his current tour. Then there moments of uplifting and hymn-like singalongs.
While the majority of the crowd on the main floor at The Opry stood for the two-hour set, it still didn’t have the feel of your typical show. There was no hooting and hollering during the middle of a song. In fact, that cheering was virtually nonexistent the entire night, minus a few “I love you” screams in between tracks.
In some ways, Hozier felt like a pastor on stage talking to his congregation. Instead of reading scripture though, the singer used his music to convey his message, and the Nashville crowd held on to every word out of the singer’s mouth.
This tour also felt like a reintroduction for Hozier, following the release of his second studio album back on March 1. Sunday’s show put those songs on display, as half of the set was filled with tracks from that recent release.
With the majority of the audience hearing the new songs live for the first time, Hozier gave the crowd a look behind the curtain a couple of times. Rather than just performing the material, he talked about the song’s meanings and gave some insight into why and how he crafted certain tracks, something that was rather refreshing to hear.
While introducing the audience to the new songs, he also had fun with some of his earlier work. While the crowd was already engaged in the performance, a singalong before the start of “Nobody” got the crowd smiling and dancing, chanting along during the performance.
Immediately following that, Hozier kept the audience hyped up with his most energetic song, “Nobody.” During that showcase, the singer got his backing band involved heavily, particularly on drums, as Rory Doyle got to showcase his skills, during a brief solo.
Surprisingly, the biggest hit didn’t come quite last. Instead, Hozier performed “Take Me to Church,” before coming back on stage for a two-song encore. The singer ended with two of his more popular tracks, “Cherry Wine” and “Work Song,” before taking a bow.
Opener Jade Bird was sensational during her nearly 3o-minute performance. The British singer didn’t let a technical delay before her set faze her, as she wowed the crowd, with her self-described bellowy voice.
Bird didn’t need a backing band when she took center stage at The Opry with just her guitar. Like Hozier, Bird spoke about her song’s meanings, the majority of which were about love and breakups, something that’s “been sung about many times on this stage.”
While performing a couple of slower songs, that audience was captivated by her powerful voice. The best comparison, which was made by a random crowd member, is that her sound felt like Janis Joplin performance infused with a ’90s grunge, pop feel.
Before her 10th and final song, “Going, Gone,” the singer announced that she would be at the merch booth so people could stop by and get photos. Many members of the audience took her up on that offer, as the line was out the door, minutes after she walked off stage.
Zach Birdsong can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ZachBirdsong.