Concert Review: Hozier Raises Spirits At The Hollywood Forever Cemetery

After he released his album Wasteland, Baby!, I fell into a deep, deep hole of Hozier obsession. Since I wouldn’t stop talking about him, some of my friends bought me a ticket to see his show on April 9 at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Unfortunately, the intense winds that night resulted in a canceled show and many broken hearts. On June 18, I finally saw Hozier, and it was definitely worth the wait.

Andrew Hozier-Byrne is a 6’5” musician from Ireland who broke into the music industry with his vastly popular single, “Take Me To Church” which won the Song of the Year at the 2015 BBC Music Awards and Top Rock Song at the 2015 Billboard Music Awards. His concert was possibly the best one I’ve ever been to. This was my experience:

5:24 p.m. Everyone in line around me seems to be in love. I must admit, it’s a bit irritating seeing so many hands being held and heads being stroked when I am alone with but a bag of Truffle Marcona Almonds from Trader Joe’s. They’re good almonds, but still.

6:08 p.m. I am running out of almonds. A girl in line has arrived with an entire pizza. She’s too far away for me to smell it, but I have a fantastic imagination and a nearly empty stomach. At this point, I’m not sure if I can make it.

6:30 p.m. The security starts letting us into the venue. It is a pretty long trek from the doors, through the grave-lined street, to the stage. I want to stop and take more pictures of the scenery, but a lot of people are running to the stage to get a better view. I’m not dedicated enough to put myself through such cardio, but I am dedicated enough to keep my head facing forward and to put one foot in front of the other as I walk towards the stage.

7:32 p.m. The opening band, Bailen, comes on stage. They are a family band comprised of twin brothers, David and Daniel, on drums and bass respectively, and their younger sister, Julia, on guitar. The first thing I notice is Julia’s dope yellow boiler suit and the fact that she looks a little bit like Lorde.

They open with “Rose Leaves,” a song with a dreamy guitar line and pretty sick harmonies between all three siblings, which they do often. Then, they play “Something Tells Me," one of my favorites from their set list. They also play “Stray Dog,” “I Was Wrong” and “Your Love Is All I Know.” Daniel introduces “Not Gonna Take Me,” a song about mental health, and encourages the audience to clap along. Finally, they close with “25 for the Last Time” which Daniel describes as a song about growing a year older and about how nobody really has it all figured out. All of their songs are incredibly collaborative. Julia puts down her guitar and takes a step back during “25 for the Last Time” and the twins lead in vocals. Daniel gets his vocal moment in “Not Gonna Take Me." They all lend their individual vocals and styles to each song, more so than most other bands I’m familiar with.

8:03 p.m. Bailen finishes their set, and we are left to wait for Hozier to arrive. I would usually be tired, sweaty and restless at this point. But, Bailen was an amazing opening act and the weather was pretty much perfect, so I was more than content to stand and wait.

8:30 p.m. Hozier comes onstage to roaring applause and screams. He takes out his man bun, shakes out his glorious locks, and begins to play.

He starts with “Would That I” featuring his powerful vocals and a rich instrumentation. Then, he transitions into “Dinner and Diatribes” as the audience claps along to the driving guitar line. For his next song, “Nina Cried Power,” he puts down his guitar and takes the mic off the stand. There is an intense look in his eye as he sings and I’m not exaggerating when I say I got goosebumps. I look around and see passionate eyes and raised fists and it feels like a protest. He quickly apologizes for having to reschedule the concert and moves onto “Someone New,” “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene” and “Nobody." His next song, “Talk” feels almost eerie in the cemetery. He then plays “From Eden” and asks for us to sing along. It is sweet and simple and loving.

Before he played Wasteland, Baby!, Hozier explains that in 2016, while composing the album, he was writing a few love songs for the end of the world in hope that the last human act on Earth would be an act of kindness. The audience “aww’d”, and he called us all softies. With the reverb and sparse instrumentation, it sounded very ethereal. The slightly orange-tinted sky (thanks, pollution!) made me feel like I was the romantic lead in a dystopian YA novel. Wasteland, indeed. Then, he played “Shrike,” a love song named after a type of bird that he describes as “a nasty, elegant little thing." Whatever love Hozier has experienced is clearly beyond anything I can even fathom feeling.

He then plays my favorite song from his new album, “No Plan." He says that it’s about how we should not sweat the small things when there are far worse things to look forward to, like the universe winding down into coldness and darkness. Thank you, Hozier, for this lovely optimism. Next, he plays “To Be Alone,” “Jackie and Wilson,” “Almost (Sweet Music)” and "Moment’s Silence (Common Tongue)." The next song, “Movement” feels like a prayer session. Everyone sways with their hands in the air. He plays “Take Me To Church” and comes off stage toward the crowd. The music video for this song features two men in a relationship and highlights anti-LGBT violence. People wave pride flags in the air and sing back loudly and proudly. During Pride Month, this song takes an especially important place in many hearts.

9:56 p.m. Hozier and his team exit briefly, and then he returns alone for an intimate encore of “Cherry Wine” before he brings everyone back on stage for introductions. It truly seems like they are a family, which was nice to see. Bailen comes back to join him for the closing “Work Song."

10:18 p.m. I walk to my sister’s car as a new woman. Hozier gave me the best night of my life and I am endlessly grateful I was able to see him live in such a lovely venue.