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  • Tessa Brainard

Concert Review: Hozier - Unreal Unearth Tour

Hozier burst onto the mainstream music scene when his debut single, “Take Me To Church,” was released in 2013 and quickly dominated the music charts. I fell in love with his music the first time I heard his voice, and my obsession with him hasn’t diminished at all in the past ten years. His talent is absolutely undeniable; from his vocal range, instrumental skill, and incredible lyricism, his studio albums and live shows are mesmerizing.

I attended the November 1st date of Hozier’s Unreal, Unearth World Tour, named after his 2023 album of the same name. The concert was in Phoenix, Arizona at the Arizona Financial Theatre, where I had seen Hozier on his last tour in 2019. That show was one of my final shows before the Covid-19 Pandemic began. Like everyone, so much of my life has changed since then, but I have never lost my love for Hozier and his music. In times of so much uncertainty, one of the small joys I had at that time was getting in my car and blasting my favorite Hozier songs out of my stereo.

I was so excited to walk into one of my favorite venues to see him for another sold-out show. Madison Cunningham was his opener for this tour and I was blown away by her talent. I had never listened to her before, but the confidence and power in her vocals overtook the entire venue. Her voice has a delicate softness to it that takes listeners back to the early days of music. It is easy to imagine her songs being played on a vintage record play but that is not to say they are boring. She effortlessly took each song to new heights with her impressive range and crystal clear high notes. If you didn’t know she was opening for Hozier, you would have believed it was a show entirely of her own. By the time her set was over, the entire audience was simultaneously wanting more of her music and restless to get to the main event.

When Hozier came out, I, like everyone in the venue, absolutely lost my mind. He started his set with De Selby (Part 1) and De Selby (Part 2) before launching into my favorite song ever, Jackie and Wilson. I refused to look at any spoilers online for the tour prior to my show, so this was an exciting surprise. I danced and sang my little heart out like there was no one else in the room.

The stage visuals tapped into the fantastical theme of the night, with a large, bare tree skyline descending above the stage. Behind the band, projections of stormy skies, sunrises, and starry fields complemented the colorful lights illuminating the stage and kept our eyes glued to the stage.

The audience was alive with the rush of guitar and Hozier’s dazzling stage presence. He played a mix of songs from all three of his studio albums without missing a single beat. With the help of his amazing band and backup vocalists, he had the crowd dancing one minute and shedding tears the next. When the fan-favorite (yet misunderstood) Cherry Wine came on, we were all put into a melancholic trance as Hozier lamented about love gone bad.

He allowed the music to do most of the talking for him, saving his voice in between songs until he reached I, Carrion, a song about the myth of Icarus. Before starting the song, he connected the mythical origins of this song to the mythical origins of the city of Phoenix, stating how much he loves it for its name. “If you’re familiar with the story of Icarus… Well, I imagine you all are. It’s Phoenix, right? I guess he [Icarus] didn’t come back though, right, when he burned up?” He said. The talk of mythic stories continued as he asked for the spotlights to be pointed at the upper level seating. As those of us on the floor turned to look, he compared the fans up in those stands to “the Gods of Mount Olympus.”

As the night began to wind down, he played one of my other favorite songs, Damage Gets Done, in a breathtaking duet with backing vocalists, Melissa McMillan. The song is originally a duet with singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, but McMillan’s voice did not disappoint. Every note reminded me that I’m young and alive with a full journey ahead of me to live. Since its release, this song has inspired me to enjoy my youth as long and as fully as possible, and hearing it live made me feel like I could do anything.

To end his initial set, Hozier played his hit single, Take Me To Church. The love and appreciation he has for that song is evident each time he plays it live, and I am happy that it has stood the test of time over the past 10 years.

After a brief break, Hozier and his band came back for an encore, starting with Nina Cried Power, a song calling for action and praising generations of activists from around the world. Before beginning the song, Hozier spoke about the heartbreaking war against Palestine and encouraged the audience to contact their local representatives and government officials to call for a ceasefire. Bravely, an audience member before me raised her Palestinian flag as the song began. Constantly practicing what he preaches, Hozier’s shows always feel safe and welcoming to all.

For his final song, Hozier played the ever-romantic Work Song in a duet with Madison Cunningham. Another one of my favorites, I got lost in the dreamy tune and lyrics of the song before he took a bow with his band members and walked off stage.

Seeing Hozier live is an experience like no other. With incredible vocals, stage presence, and musical ability, he puts on a two-hour show that is impossible to dislike. I am so grateful to have seen him again. His albums have truly made me who I am and have carried me through so much. I can't wait to see him again in the future and make many more memories at his shows.

Written By Tessa Brainard

*copyright not intended. Fair use act, section 107.


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