After a very hard-to-top second day of weekend two with exemplary sets from acts like The 1975, the final day of the Austin City Limits Music Festival delivered. Mumford And Sons headlined for a third time while others like Niall Horan and Kevin Kaarl made their ACL debut. Energetic sets, like the one from Hozier, lifted moods from fans that felt the fatigue of festing for three days and dreaded the coming Monday.
Here’s what went down with the (international) acts we saw Sunday.
Mumford & Sons Make Their Third ACL Appearance Worth It
Sure, Mumford And Sons have headlined ACL three whooping times in less than 10 years. (Plus: Marcus Mumford also performed a solo set just last year). Some hate it, but most love it. It became evident when a large part of festival goers descended upon their headlining set to close out ACL.
The British trio ensured Austin got what it deserved for always showing up. The setlist was full of Mumford classics: ‘Little Lion Man’ kickstarted their celebratory-like performance after opening with the epic ‘Babel,’ while later on ‘The Cave’ served nostalgia and ‘Ditmas’ enthusiasm. ‘I Will Wait’ was the cherry on top.
That would suffice for any fan, but they managed to make it even more special by inviting some guests. Hozier joined them for ‘Timshel’ and ‘Awake My Soul.’ The Huston-Tillotson University Concert Choir lent their voices on ‘October Skies.’ The highlight, however, was when the brilliant Trombone Shorty and Celisse Henderson assisted with an exceptional rendition of ‘The House Of The Rising Son.’ It truly was a work of art.
“There’s no other festival in the world that we’ve headlined three times,” Mumford said. “And that makes it our favorite festival in the world.”
We will await their return in 2026.
Hozier Takes Austin To Church
If you have never been to a Hozier show, run to one. The Irishman knows how to do music live. His accompanying band helped set the mood for his hour-long set which had the ACL crowd wanting more.
His anthemy bangers from his self-titled debut ‘Work Song’ and the timeless ‘Take Me To Church’ reminded us why we would want Hozier leading the charge at war. His vocal timbre rumbling throughout Zilker Park at sunset is an exhilarating thing to experience.
His new album Unreal Unearth also possesses songs that work lovely live. The massive chorus on ‘De Selby (Part 2)’ with which he opens his show is chilling. ‘Francesca’ allows for a proper singalong with the ‘ah-ah’s’ echoing on the speakers. He also shared his Brandi Carlile-collab ‘Damage Gets Done’ with one of his backup singers, who more than did it justice, prompting a deserving ovation.
By the end of his set, it was clear Hozier dealt Austin his best hand. 10/10
Niall Horan Shares The Show
“We’re having an Irish takeover,” Niall Horan said. “It’s me and the wonderful Andrew Hozier-Byrne. We like the south. Yeehaw.”
It was charisma overload with Horan, who seemingly had as much fun as his fans during his 4pm set at the American Express main stage. Talk about having immaculate stage presence; Horan appeared comfortable, and worked the audience well – clear signs that his years performing on huge stages as a member of One Direction prepared him for this.
Kicking things off with a bang, Horan quickly leaned into his sophomore album standout ‘Nice To Meet Ya.’ But his set mostly pulled from his latest effort The Show, which he is touring next year (he appropriately plugged his just-announced show at Austin’s Moody Center next August). Singles ‘Heaven’ and ‘Meltdown’ were well-received, but he also gave space to tunes like ‘On A Night Like Tonight’ and ‘Save My Life.’
It is always nice for artists to promote their latest material, but his set did hit a plateau with the less-known The Show tracks. Notably missing were some of his debut gems like the festival-ready ‘On The Loose’ and the sentimental ballad ‘Too Much To Ask.’ Regardless, fans stuck around for his biggest solo hit ‘Slow Hands.’
He also slipped in One Direction’s ‘Story Of My Life’ to the delight of the thousands of girls in attendance yearning for yesteryear, which he wittily introduced by saying, “This next song is a new song we put out last week.”
Kevin Kaarl Brings Latin Vibes
Mexican folk rising star Kevin Kaarl gave ACL a bilingual performance to kick things off on the last day of the fest. Guitar in hand, he swiftly showed off his intriguing vocals to songs like his new single ‘mis compas tan aqui’ and his most known song ‘San Lucas.’
The accompanying band included a trumpet player, whose solos throughout the hour-long set added a nice touch. “My English is bad but I know how to use Google Translate,” Kaarl said before diving into an English-language track. He also gave a shout out to Hozier, who he cites as an inspiration and performed on the same stage later in the day, saying that it was unbelievable to be playing the same fest as him. 8/10.