There’s something about this town that absolutely loves the strange and unique things in life. “Keep Portland Weird” has become somewhat of a mantra that Portlanders hold dear to their hearts. While Hozier doesn’t exactly fit the bill as weird per se, his one of a kind music style definitely can be classified as unique.
Hozier Sharing The Love With Portland
Undoubtedly this is why his two-night stint at the Roseland completely sold out in mere seconds as tickets were released online. The demand is astronomically high for a chance to take part in this unparalleled concert experience in such a small intimate theater setting. While the lower capacity venue choice undoubtedly prevented some diehard fans from attending, the lucky few ticket holders were truly in for the time of their lives.
The audience was anxiously anticipating Hozier to take the stage. However, our impatience was quickly quelled by the opening act Hudson Taylor. Musician brothers Harry & Alfie kicked off the night with Irish folk music with a modernized twist. Featuring traditional instruments like the tin whistle yet still sounding current to today’s music standards; a very unique accomplishment I might add! Even though their Irish kinship perfectly complimented Hozier’s concert theme, I could easily see them headlining their own shows. Alfie asked the crowd if they would come see them perform if they returned to Portland, to which he received a very enthusiastic yes! He might’ve been dropping a hint about a potential future PDX solo tour stop, we’ll just have to wait and see.
The time had finally come for the moment we were all waiting for. Hozier and his crew of talented musicians took to the stage to much fanfare. Opening with a favorite from his previous album ‘Like Real People Do’ gently easing us into his stronger performance of ‘Nina Cried Power’ off his new EP. Paying homage to the historical greats that influenced his own musical upbringing; James Bown, John Lennon, Joni Mitchell, B.B. King & Nina Simone. These pioneers paved the way for modern-day musicians like Hozier to make their way in the industry. Without them, this concert most likely wouldn’t have been possible.
Even though this tour’s purpose was to promote the new EP, the majority of songs performed were from his prior album. To keep things fresh, he completely reinvented ‘Someone New’ into a funky dance-worthy jam session, breathing new life into one of our favorite songs. Hozier also treated us to a new song called ‘Movement’ giving the audience a much-appreciated preview of his upcoming album dropping next year. It was a smooth & sexy melody that I could imagine playing during a romantic encounter to set the mood just right. I’m very intrigued to know how the studio version of this song will resonate with me, his on-point performance tonight has set the bar pretty high, here’s hoping his music producer can capture that sound I was thoroughly impressed with.
Switching gears by falling back into an old tour tradition, he asked the audience to attempt to mimic his high pitched wailing featured in ‘To Be Alone’, which is no easy task. I’ve attended many of his concerts and typically this turns into a moment of comedy when the crowd humorously botches the vocals. This time was different though, the Portland audience nailed it perfectly, surprising Hozier to the point where it inspired him to physically applaud them for their talented efforts. Is it a coincidence the audience received praise for their singalong when I decided not to add my own wretched voice into the mix? We may never know.
The show eventually came to its faux conclusion after ‘Take Me To Church’ was performed. Anyone who has been to a Hozier show (or any other concert for that matter) knows there’s usually an encore planned for afterwards. That inside information didn’t prevent the audience from rowdily chanting and stomping on the floor to the point of literally shaking the foundations of the venue. The unexpected seismic activity may have inspired the band’s return to the stage a little faster than usual, kicking off the encore with a truly entertaining cover of ‘Say My Name’ by Destiny’s Child. While he most likely won’t be stealing away Beyonce’s fans any time soon, I definitely appreciated the creativity behind crafting this pop song into a jazzy melody.
The authentic concert finale began with the fittingly somber ‘Work Song’ but not before Hozier graciously thanked his audience; “It’s a joy to be back in Portland, I must say I fucking love this city”. I think it’s safe to say he’ll be revisiting the city of roses on another tour stop once his new full-length album drops next year. I’ll be looking forward to that moment, especially after being impressed by his ability to reinvent his stage dynamic to keep things fresh yet still managing to recapture that energy I grew to love on his 2015 tour. The future looks bright for this extraordinary musician.
Review and photos by Austen Maddox
Shot for Vortex Music Magazine with full gallery available on their website.