The Sunday lineup for Boston Calling promised a modest variety – the handful of punk, folk, and pop artists meant at least several shifts in genre during the day. The festival made sure that concertgoers could keep their day organized, grouping together the artists with similar sounds and vibes. As the hours past certain audience demographics came and went as well, from crust punks looking to rock out to breezy folk lovers in their laid-back plaid.
No matter what brand of fan, audience members found themselves electrified by the selection of vocal talent the evening boasted. As the sun dipped behind city hall, it became difficult to tell if the chills were from the cool breeze or the high notes hit just right. When soulful songwriter Hozier took the stage, hundreds of new audience members had begun to cram into City Hall. The influx wasn’t unexpected as in one year the singer rocketed to success with his single “Take Me to Church”, which swiftly went from alternative radio favorite to Grammy-nominated hit single. With a serene stage presence and the magnetic draw of his voice, Andrew Hozier-Byrne proved to us all that his place in the music industry is well deserved. His setlist featured the mainstay hits off his self-titled debut, but also threw in some oddities with slower cuts and a couple covers. This included a surprising rendition of Ariana Grande’s “Problem”, which somehow managed to be brooding and spooky with the help of some well-timed harmonies from his background vocalists. When Hozier closed the performance with his hit single, the crowd of people roared the words along with him. In a fitting end to his performance, the choruses of “Amen” could be heard ricocheting off the walls of City Hall.
In the first half of the day there were also many distinctive voices to be heard. A mid-afternoon fuzz fest began with the punks of Bully. Front woman Alicia Bognanno drives their punk-pop with her gritty voice and furious guitar work. The surf-punk kings of Fidlar found themselves at home in the warm midday sunshine, and they did their very best to get the crowd riled up. The group encouraged the punk teens at their feet to jump up and freak out, dismissing sitting audience members as old people. Nate Ruess brought the energy down a notch in the evening, filling out his set with new solo material and fun. oldies in his cartoon croon. Even Ben Howard, who performed a quiet and experimental set, puts his accent-tinged vocals center stage.
No voice rang louder and stronger than that of headliner Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard. If anyone was headed for the exit, Howard’s impossibly soulful singing surely stopped them in their tracks. Not that anyone should have been in a rush to get out – the band’s hearty blues were just the perfect thing to push that looming Monday morning off a bit longer. The band constructed their setlist largely from their latest release Sound & Color, playing songs like “Don’t Wanna Fight” and “Future People”.
Howard took a break from her powerhouse belting to point to the evening’s super-moon eclipse, declaring it time to get weird. The band broke into some of their slower jams, and she effortlessly ripping into a series of huge vocal solos. Every time Howard’s voice reached new heights, everyone around me exchanged appreciative looks with their friends. In Boston, everyone can agree the night was a crowning for the new queen of the blues.
This weekend seemed to be one more unexpected lineups the festival has put together – it was neither particularly eclectic nor notably cohesive. But for Sunday, the many memorable voices tied the evening together. Boston Calling part six therefore went out on the right note, a promising sign for the upcoming Spring lineup.
Read our recap of Boston Calling Day 1 here.
Read our recap of Boston Calling Day 2 here.