Earlier this month, I saw Hozier play the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Experience music festival. It was a rainy evening but a very solid show overall. Hozier’s stage show doesn't have the biggest backing band, the highest energy music, or the biggest production value, yet his own coolness as a person coupled with his inherent talents as an artist really stand out.
Here are some points from Hozier’s performance that could add to any artist’s live show:
1. Introduce and thank your crew.
Most solo artists or frontmen (and women) know to introduce their band at some point during the show. Hozier took this a step further and recognized not only the sound folks but also his tour manager, guitar tech, etc. This didn't take long and really showed how he appreciated his team. When you're on tour for weeks or even months at a time, your crew becomes your roommates, friends, and family. Don't forget to give them a shout out and some love during the show!
2. Do a song just for "funsies."
Even if (and sometimes especially if) your music is pretty serious, try to do a song just for "funsies" (in Hozier's words). This can be in the form of an unexpected cover, a mashup, a guest appearance, or something else creative. It will surprise your fans and give them a new musical experience that they can't get from your album, giving them even more reason to come out and support you live. At music festivals or other events where the audience is a mix, it can also be a good way to appeal to a new audience - covering a song that they're familiar with, even if they don't know your music well.
Hozier's "funsy" moment of the evening was performing a mash-up of Ariana Grande's "Problem" and Warren G's "Regulate." Yes, I had the song stuck in my head for the rest of my night, but Hozier had so much fun with it and it showed a lighter side to his music and personality and showed me songs that I've heard thousands of times in a creative, new light.
3. Don't be a 'boy band' (unless you actually are a boy band).
Hozier's band consisted of three guys (including Hozier) and four ladies. There are some fantastic female musicians and singers out there so don't just assume that your band should be all guys. Give that female drummer, bass player, or keyboardist the same chance you'd give a dude.
4. Appeal to the gear geeks.
Play some interesting looking (and sounding) instruments. Hozier's cellist was playing a black cello and at one point, Hozier himself was playing a Bohemian Oil Can guitar. It's also interesting for the audience if you switch up instrumentation on a song that they know well - use an acoustic guitar instead of electric or add strings or horns, for example.
5. Roll with the unexpected!
Last year a gospel choir crashed a Hozier show in Paris and started singing "Take Me to Church" with him during the performance, with harmonies and full voices. Hozier remained so composed, although visibly moved by the experience, and finished the song with a big thank you and compliment to the singers. When the unexpected arises at a show, especially if it shows you how much people love and are inspired by your music, just go with it. Be appreciative, improvise, and experience the moment.
Author: Jennifer Newman Sharpe, Sparkplug Co-Founder and COO