Hozier Smashes Madison Square Garden Debut With ‘Unreal Unearth’ Tour: 5 Best Moments

Last month (Sept. 13), Hozier celebrated the ten-year anniversary of “Take Me to Church” — the roaring Grammy-nominated Diamond-certified carnal worship song that shot him to fame — and while that single remains a towering contribution to the 21st-century pop music lexicon, it was just one of countless electrifying moments at Hozier’s Madison Square Garden debut at his Unreal Unearth tour on Saturday night (Sept. 30).

A 25-city trek in support of his third studio album of the same name — which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 and topped the Rock, Folk and Alternative Albums charts — the Unreal Unearth Tour finds Hozier 10 years removed from the life-changing explosion of “Church,” comfortably treating tens of thousands of dedicated, enraptured fans to fantastic live renditions of standout tracks from several EPs and albums.

Featuring an incredibly talented band that combined the musical legacies of Ireland, New York City and Nashville, TN, a set that periodically lit up with bare upside-down trees and a heartwarming air of gratitude, Saturday night’s show was a career highlight for the 33-year-old Irish rocker. Opening with a haunting take on Unreal Unearth introductory double-header “De Selby (Part 1)” and “De Selby (Part 2),” Hozier treated Madison Square Garden to a journey through some of his most moving ruminations on love, lust, the afterlife and religion. A remarkably consistent live vocalist, Hozier’s voice — in addition to his guitar skills — was the centerpiece of the show. He seamlessly shifted from cooing in a whispery falsetto to rocking the arena’s foundation with lofty belts and rollicking arrangements throughout the 19-song setlist — which included such songs as “Movement,” “Eat Your Young” and “Jackie and Wilson.”

With a simple stage setup that prioritized showcasing the camaraderie of his band and the physicality of each of their individual performances, the Unreal Unearth tour perfectly captured the reason so many people became so enamored with Hozier a decade ago. He performs with a reverence for the experience of crafting music and sharing that with the world. Whether it’s the camera lingering on the way he delicately finger-picks the guitar or a sultry body-to-body moment between two band members, the entire production reveled in the endless possibilities of music and its creation. That joy and respect were reflected in the crowd, a sold-out sea of diverse faces belting out call-and-response exchanges preceding “To Be Alone” and coordinating eardrum-splitting cheers in anticipation of a show-stealing encore.

Here are the five best moments at Hozier’s Unreal Unearth Tour in New York City on Saturday night.