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Los Angeles-based folk-rock musician Madison Cunningham is bringing her stardom all across North America. After winning a Grammy Award for Best Folk Album for her 2022 album “Revealer,” Cunningham has joined Irish singer-songwriter Hozier as the opening act on his Unreal Unearth Tour. Supported by a three-piece band, she performed a mix of old favorites and new releases from her 2022 album “Revealer” at Boston’s Leader Bank Pavilion on Saturday, Sept. 23.
Cunningham opened her set with “All I’ve Ever Known,” a haunting ballad about the fear of walking away from the familiar. Under blue and green lighting, she captured the audience’s attention with her powerful and heartfelt vocals.
Next up was “Hospital,” an upbeat song with hints of country in its swinging melody and guitar instrumental. A highlight of her set, Cunningham carried “Hospital” with her effortless stage presence and easy connection with her band.
Bright songs like “Hospital” were interspersed between songs that sometimes ventured into darkness. Cunningham performed “Pin It Down,” from her 2019 album “Who Are You Now” — a mellow, groovy song that combines folk and electronic genres. Meanwhile, “Death By Suspicion” leaned further into this sound, showcasing Cunningham’s soaring, almost birdlike vocals in a slower song. The lyrics explored the complex feelings of internal conflict, displaying not only Cunningham’s versatility but also her skillful songwriting.
“I wanted this work to reflect how I was taking in the world at that moment, and I promised myself I wouldn’t withhold the good or the bad from this self-portrait,” Cunningham wrote about the album “Revealer.”
Between songs, she expressed her gratitude at touring with Hozier.
“A few days ago, I was looking back at some old journals from five years ago, and one of the things that I wrote down was wanting to open for Hozier,” she said to cheers from the audience.
“Anyway, I thought that was pretty cool. I’m extremely chuffed to be here.”
Live on Leader Bank Pavilion’s outdoor stage, Cunningham’s performance was enhanced by prominent instrumental support from her band, lending the songs a power different from the tuned-down acoustic sound in her studio recordings — something that was particularly noticeable in songs such as “Broken Harvest,” another slow piece that mourns the passage of time.
One of the more emotional performances during Cunningham’s set was the quiet ballad “Life According to Raechel” — a song dedicated to her grandmother, who passed away unexpectedly. The song is, according to Cunningham’s website, “a catalog of missed opportunities and lost time, all the visits she never made to her beloved grandmother, all the important details that make up a life.”
Cunningham finished her opening set with “In From Japan,” an uplifting, melodic anthem that provided a resounding end to her performance. “No one’s holding you back now,” she sang repeatedly to close out the song. Indeed, it doesn’t seem like anything is holding Cunningham back — her career is on the rise.
Cunningham’s opening act — powerful, versatile, and impressive — created the perfect atmosphere for Hozier’s set that came after. If concertgoers weren’t familiar with her music already, her performance will surely have convinced them to check it out. She will be touring with Hozier until Oct. 22, for the remainder of his North American tour.
—Staff writer Samantha H. Chung can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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