The humble yet powerful voice of Hozier unites the diverse Toronto crowd

Autumn vibes make sense at show scattered with capes and flower crowns

Who: Hozier
Where: Budweiser Stage, Toronto
When: Tue., Sept. 19
Vibe: Welcoming and grateful
Highlight: A satisfying performance of Take Me to Church rallies the queer crowd and allies
Next: The Unreal Unearth Tour continues in the U.S. with one stop in Vancouver on Sun., Oct. 22, at Rogers Arena
Rating: NNNN (out of 5)

IT’S A CRISP, COOL NIGHT IN TORONTO, which feels all too appropriate for the autumn vibes of Hozier’s Unreal Unearth Tour. There’s a varied audience, from teenagers to seniors, and fans dressed in T-shirts and jeans to more elaborate outfits featuring flower crowns and velvet capes.

On stage, tree roots jut out from the ceiling, revealing that the show is happening deep within the earth. Throughout the night, Hozier plays many new favourites from his critically acclaimed new album, Unreal Unearth, including De Selby (Part 1) and (Part 2), Francesca, Damage Gets Done, Eat Your Young, and more.

Before he plays To Someone from a Warm Climate (Uiscefhuaraithe), Hozier explains its origins — Uiscefhuaraithe is the Irish word meaning “the feeling of coolness that comes from water” — and reminisces about growing up in Ireland and learning Gaelic in classes. Aside from his hometown of Dublin, Hozier mentions that he has probably spent the most time in Toronto, staying with friends who lived in Kensington Market, making music and enjoying some drinks.

While some singers can seem limited in stage presence when they’re playing guitar and singing at the same time because they’re usually planted in a specific spot on stage, Hozier is impressively magnetic. He’s not physically dynamic in the way that some artists are able to rally a crowd by running all over the place, but he is able to command the stage simply with his rich voice. The audience follows him with rapt attention. You can feel it especially when he performs Take Me to Church — his first hit feels so big, especially in a sold-out concert with thousands of fans singing along. The socially charged song is completely satisfying to hear among this gathering of queer-friendly fans and music lovers. A fan in the front row even tosses Hozier a pride flag, which he holds up and displays on his mic stand.

Hozier is endlessly grateful to his multi-talented band and crew, whom he introduces throughout the entire show, giving shoutouts whenever they have a moment to shine. He thanks them several times and points out that their names and roles will play on the video screen at the end of the night, just like movie credits.

Just as Hozier is playing the last few songs for the encore, the earthy set décor withdraws and the background video screens bring us up aboveground, with a blue sky and bountiful fields, signalling the end of the Unreal Unearth tribunals for the night.