“Who is keeping the blues alive?”
Its a commonly asked question among older generations. And answers seem to differ depending on who talk to. Some say its already a dead genre. Others look at the 5 year old guitar prodigy playing in dive bars. But blues musicians are not hard to find these days. You just have to listen for it.
Musically speaking, we wouldn’t be where we are today without blues music. Without the sold souls to the devil, The Lucille’s, The 3 kings and the British counterparts that followed and took their music for gospel, Musicians like Hozier wouldn’t have a stage. Hozier, whose music is rooted in blues, also has a standing in pop charts as well. But does that make him a truebluesman? That older generation would shake their head at that. But, at the same time, Jimi Hendrix was pop, wasnt he?
Hozier’s blues music certainly goes beyond the twelve bar format we may be used to. His stage, with both a keyboardist and a organist (with separate instrumentalists!) a drummer, bassist, backup singers, and a dual wielding violinist and guitarwoman, is larger than some. Perhaps what stands out the most is the songwriting. But unlike a bluesman singing about the end of his world, Hozier sings about the end of the world.
He is touring behind his latest release: “Wasteland, Baby!” which was written around the time when “The doomsday clock struck 2 minutes to midnight” he said. “Exciting stuff.” He played a few guitars made from old gasoline and paint cans, both bluesy and, in the same way, post-apocalyptic. It was humorus hear this music, and see these homemade guitars, played in such a regal place like the State Theatre. The crowd was up and standing from their assigned seating by the second song, the star studded, name dropping Nina Cried Power released as both a single on an EP and with Mavis Staples on the latest record. Aisles soon became tough to find when fans moved away from their seats, and moved to the front rows to sing along to every word.
These fans swayed and sang along to Hoziers grim tales. No Plan referenced the end of the universe itself, when all the stars go out and cold. Astrophysicist Kate Mack has an upcoming bock on this topic, as referenced by Hozier in the song. Fans couldn’t seem to get enough of the existential dread in his songs.
Hozier topped off his main set with his mega hit, Take me to Church released in 2013, and at this moment, close to hitting 1 billion plays on Spotify. His encore included a solo performance of Cherry Wine that was powerful enough to quiet the whole crowd. There’s only few artists out there who can do that to a crowd, and even less that can keep them transfixed Like Hozier. There were no phones out, no whistles, or “Woo!”s. Just silence for the duration of the song. A rarity in concerts that makes that moment all the more special, and Hozier all that more important of an artist…even if he’s a bluesman.