It has been two years since Take Me To Church took over the radio charts all over the globe, selling 4 million copies in America alone. Today, it still sits firmly at number 82 on the UK singles chart. There are very few people who won’t have heard the name Hozier, as the Irish singer-songwriter, real name Andrew Hozier-Byrne, has brought his own mix of blues and rock into the mainstream.
Taking to the stage on the first of a three night stint at London’s O2 Academy Brixton, there were high hopes. Originally planning to play just one show in the capital, two more had to be added to meet demand.
Welcomed to the stage with a thunderous applause and his name emblazoned behind the stage, it seemed almost expected that the long haired 25-year-old would open with something upbeat to fit the mood. Instead, he strummed right into one of his slower tracks, Like Real People Do, before continuing into the bluesy Angel Of Small Death and Codeine Scene. Feel good tune Jackie and Wilson spurned a giant singalong while one of his most pop-sounding songs Someone New had the crowd dancing. To Be Alone and Arsonist’s Lullabye had a more a more rock’n’roll feel to it, showcasing the singer’s versatile sound.
A cover of Blackbird by The Beatles may not have gone down as well as his own tunes, but the crooner managed to make the song his own, switching up the arrangements and taking full advantage of his six-piece backing band. It wasn’t long before he was back into familiar territory though, with the crowd lapping up every moment.
Accompanied by fellow Irish songbird Karen Cowley, from opening act Wyvern Lingo, for a stunning duet of In A Week, it felt as if the oxygen had been taken from the room. It is a tragic tale about two lovers ‘doing what lovers do’ on the Wicklow Mountains near Bray in Ireland, a place which, as Hozier says, is usually followed or lead by the phrase ‘has been found dead’.
Closing the set with the song that put his name in lights, the audience turned itself into a gospel choir, threatening to drown out the very vocals they had paid to hear. Take Me To Church is a performance you need to see to believe. Hozier’s remarkable vocals combined with the passion of his fans is a spiritual experience in itself. Returning for an encore of sweet love song Cherry Wine and fan-favourite Work Song, the crowd were begging for more by the time the Grammy-nominated singer left the stage for the last time.
It is an impressive feat to be able to captivate an audience through an entire 13 song set, and yet Hozier seems to have mastered the act. He has the incredible ability to turn any venue into an intimate show, and is quite simply mesmerizing to watch. Taking the time to introduce his entire backing band, and the people who work behind the scenes – from his guitar tech to their lighting man – Hozier shows just why he is dominating stages all over the world. Not only does he ooze talent and showmanship, he is a genuinely nice guy.
No word on when album 2 will be out yet, but there’s still a lot more for this Irish wonder to give. There’s a reason he is selling out shows everywhere he goes, and its only up-hill from here. Next up, arenas.