Like a heart-pounding communion of blues, Hozier’s ‘Wasteland Baby!’ Tour made a sold-out appearance at Sacramento Memorial Auditorium on Monday night. Joined by Madison Ryann Ward, the evening would be a captivating experience from the beginning.
In support of his latest album, ‘Wasteland Baby!,’ the Irish sensation garnered an eight-piece band comprised of artists exclusively from Nashville, Tennessee and parts of Ireland. Throughout the night each would demonstrate a world-class display of artistry, switching instruments and vocal arrangements, from the violin, drums and tambourine to the organ, keys and a necessary five-string bass guitar.
Of course, it would be 29-year-old Hozier who would lead the pack with his powerful voice that echoes roughly between a sweet baritone and finds itself lifting into a tenor with poise. Performing a majority of the tracks off ‘Wasteland Baby!,’ it came as a surprise that he chose not to perform the album’s title track. Nevertheless, the evening left a powerful impression on the Memorial Auditorium’s luscious space.
For an artist who seemingly stands in one place the majority of the night, the truth is he needs no more than to raise a hand gesture to get the audience enticed enough to make the floor tremble. From songs such as “Nina Cried Power” and the lovable “Someone New” to the bluesy “No Plan” and rhythmic “Almost,” fans were wrapped up like rock and roll babies sedated by doleful lullabies.
There would be a surprising uptick during an impressive rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “Living for the City,” which payed homage to the clear influences Hozier seems to pay respects to on a regular basis. Nods to Duke Ellington, B.B. King, James Brown, Nina Simone and of course, Mavis Staples, become more deliberate in his music’s progression.
Throughout the night, every song played welcomed the possibility of an instrumental breakdown from any member of the band, which often felt like ten thousand hours worth of practice turned into a jam session. In addition, each song provided a new theme on the highly-detailed LED screen, which reciprocated the multi-layered motifs within his lyrics.
After announcing there would be new music before Christmas this year, Hozier would nervously introduce a new song, “Jack Boot Jump,” which he credited was influenced by Woody Guthrie. While the sound was slightly distinct from the overall appeal of ‘Wasteland Baby!,’ the reception was solid nonetheless, with the lyrics “you know things are happening when the jack boot makes the jump,” standing out with vigor.
By the end of the night, Hozier would receive the loudest applause with the song that made him a Grammy Award nominee in “Take Me To Church.” Despite being the obvious choice for fans to singalong to, it was Hozier’s apparent gratefulness for the reception which really stood out–endearing Sacramento’s crowd to raise their spirits to the highest levels.
For more information on Hozier’s ‘Wasteland Baby!’ Tour and more, visit Hozier.com.
Photos by Paul Piazza