The first thing that came to mind when entering the SDSU Open Air Theatre was: “Wait. My dad isn’t the oldest one here.” Blindly, before the Hozier concert on Friday, I had assumed that the audience would consist of mainly millennials, especially the college student type who wore ironic graphic tees and had cool tattoos of poetry lines. Hozier, since his breakout song “Take Me to Church” (which you have invariably heard if you exist within a fifty mile radius of human civilization), has become a sort of icon for the misunderstood, the romantics, the sinners. With haunting lyrics like, “Fresh from the fields / All fetor and fertile / It’s bloody and raw, but I swear it is sweet,” Hozier would logically appeal to misguided indie souls.
What I failed to recognize, however, was that he would also appeal to literally anyone who appreciates good music. I, while inherently angsty thanks to being a teenager, rarely feel the need to decompose with a lover in a field, but I kind of relate to “In a Week” all the same. My 48-year-old lawyer father rocks out to the well-intentioned playboy anthem “Someone New” with me in the car. It only follows that the Hozier audience would be so vast and diverse, made immediately clear to me on the trolley ride there, where we were in the same car as a family of three fifty-something adults and a girl close to my age, all psyched to see the man himself. We were seated in the amphitheatre among scatterings of couples, best friend duos, parents, children, and- inexplicably- a few elderly. A long balcony of a campus building behind the stage was lined with San Diego State students enjoying the show. Hozier, with his ponytail and soulful voice, is like that cool uncle who everyone in the family goes to with their problems. No bias, no judgement, no alienation, no criticism. The Hozier concert made me feel taken care of, understood, healed, and full, like I had just eaten a homemade chicken pot pie of liberation.
Before this phenomenon took place, opening act Little Green Cars impressed with a gorgeous acapella number and overall great harmonies. The powerful lead female vocalist stole the show and shined among the other four intentionally unkempt guys of the group, who all had pretty similar voices, juxtaposed with her clear, strong one. I was pleasantly surprised by the group as a whole, however. On the car ride home I bought their song “Harper Lee” on iTunes, my favorite from the set they did.
Of course, the main event came later, in the form of a lanky Irishman. The opening chords of “Like Real People Do” stopped my heart for a good three seconds. Hozier’s performance isn’t big or extravagant or flashy like so many of the popular artists we celebrate today, but he captivated the audience just as effectively. I was incredibly caught off guard when he sang all of my favorite songs (“From Eden,” “Jackie and Wilson,” “Someone New”) in rapid succession within the first twenty minutes of the concert. My dad can attest to the fact that I clutched my chest in emotional anguish through a lot of this experience.
Especially memorable was the beautiful duet “In a Week,” a bonus track on Hozier’s album featuring Alana Henderson, whose lovely voice complements his perfectly. I wasn’t expecting this song to be on the set list because I didn’t know she was touring with Hozier, but towards the end of the concert he introduced the woman who had been playing cello with the band on stage as Henderson herself. That’s right – as well as providing a stunning vocal performance, Henderson played cello for most of the show. Truly incredible.
“Take Me to Church,” a sort of religious hymn in its own right to any self-respecting Hozier worshipper, brought the crowd to its feet in a fashion reminiscent of a congregation rising for holy Mass. (Which it kind of was.)
My favorite part of the concert ended up being the encore, partly because the rude guy two seats over left, but mostly because the atmosphere felt exponentially better. With all the fake fans- most likely concerned with traffic on the way out of the parking lot- weeded out, the real Hozier glory began. “Cherry Wine,” accompanied by the crowd’s swaying iPhone flashlights, was mellow but emotional in all the best ways. In a wonderful turn of events, Hozier invited us all to come closer. I naturally ran down to the front from my seat a few sections up, and ended up at about the third row for his playful cover of Ariana Grande’s “Problem.” By “Work Song,” the final song of the set, I had a perfect and unobstructed view of Hozier, in all his fog-machine-induced glory. All I remember is wondering what I have ever done to deserve such a divine blessing.
Like Jonathan Edwards to the Puritans, Hozier awakened a spirituality in me that I didn’t know existed. I want to grow my hair out. I want to sleep in the woods. I want to sin. I want to love.
I want to be back in the newly-sanctified Cal Coast Credit Union Open Air Theatre, with the Messiah himself filling me with religious truths.