Before embarking on his tour of big venues and arenas, singer-songwriter Hozier is delighting fans with pop-up appearances and performances at small clubs to play songs off his new album, which he explained as being like “your new clutch of babies that you want to show to the world.”
As part of that journey, Hozier dropped into Boston this week for events that catered to his most avid supporters.
The first was a meet and greet at Newbury Comics on Monday. Entry was limited to the first 600 people who preordered his third album, “Unreal Unearth.“ For Hozier, these meet and greets are a chance to interact with his fans in person and support independent record stores.
His other event was a pop-up performance at Paradise Rock Club, which not only gave fans a more up-close experience than a larger venue, but was also an opportunity to get scalper-proof tickets since concertgoers were required to pick up their tickets at the box office when the doors opened.
The Irish musician said a more intimate venue also allows him to cultivate a special bond with the audience.
“The crowds are really everything about what makes a show enjoyable and makes it an experience,” he said. “And a club show like this feels like it's something that very few people are in on and share together. And there is a special sense of fun that comes with a show like this you cannot get in a 20,000 [person] arena.”
And for Hozier, that smaller space can also be a less intimidating one.
“I think club shows are some of the funnest shows you can do. The energy is so concentrated and so intimate,” he said. “And then also it's a wonderful way for me to play this new music for the first time in much more low-pressure environments, as well.”
Hozier, whose full name is Andrew John Hozier-Byrne, is an Irish musician who blends folk, rock, soul and blues. His songs are thematically complex, driven by lyrics that are poetic, filled with religious and literary references and philosophical ponderings on life and death.
Hozier’s dedicated live audience is one that is also devoted to him virtually. Fans love his tweets, forever immortalize Instagram lives where he covered "Toxic" by Britney Spears, and honor his song lyrics.
Hozier is often canonized by fans online in a multitude of fantastical ways, such as “fairy bog king” and “lesbian Jesus,” because he has an especially devoted LGBTQ+ fanbase. He is also romanticized for his tall stature, gentle but strong voice, and deeply romantic and poetic lyrics. He tries to keep a healthy distance from online chatter.
hozier simply understanding the urge to lay rotting on the ground and be feasted upon by insects makes him one of the girls— aria (@rnostardently) May 18, 2023
“I think if people knew me too well, that wouldn't exist either,” Hozier said. “I think that sort of spontaneous mythmaking that fans enjoy, and they know it's ridiculous, but I think that's something that fills in that negative space between me and the fans because I'm not posting all that often and I do disappear for long periods of time. But yeah, I enjoy it, I think it’s funny — but I try to keep a distance for my own sanity.”
Where Hozier really shares his thoughts and perspectives on the world is through his songs. He’s made his view on politics and social equity clear: 2018’s “Nina Cried Power” is explicitly a protest song, and 2022’s “Swan Upon Leda” is a plea for reproductive freedom and rights for women.
One of his most recent songs, “Eat Your Young,” calls out the gluttonous nature of corruption and greed with lyrics like “Skinning the children for a war drum, Putting food on the table selling bombs and guns, It's quicker and easier to eat your young.”
“I do have to remind myself that the intention first of all is to be an artist,” he said. “And then I think what naturally occurs in that is that the art contains elements of my own moral compass.”
It’s an approach to music that is clearly working. It’s been nearly a decade since Hozier released “Take Me to Church,” his hit single that got him nominated for a Grammy Award for song of the year in 2015.
“I still enjoy singing it,” he said. “I think the crowds sort of carry you through that in a big, big way too, and offer so much energy in that song, it comes off in the set. It’s always a joy to get to sing it.”
At Paradise Rock Club, “Take Me to Church” was a stunning moment. He jumped off the stage, held hands with his audience as they screamed the famous lyrics back to him. When fans handed him a lesbian pride flag, he hung it on the mic stand.
Hozier ended his Tuesday show with a tongue and cheek acknowledgement of the mythos surrounding him, and also in the spirit of his pop-up performances, materializing out of nowhere and vanishing just as quickly: “I have been a figment of your collective imagination. Thank you for coming. Once you leave this venue, I cease to exist. Thank you very much.”