AL.COM: Hozier transcends hype, impresses with real-deal talent at Alabama Theatre in Birmingham
08 May 2015
7 May, 2015
Who: Hozier, the Irish singer-songwriter who became an Internet sensation in 2013 with “Take Me to Church.” His viral video prompted festival appearances, a major-label deal, a full-length album, a Grammy nomination and buzz aplenty. In short, he’s hot and hyped.
When and where: Wednesday, May 6, at theAlabama Theatre in Birmingham. The 8 p.m. show, with opener the Low Roar, marked Hozier’s debut in Alabama. Tickets sold out quickly at the historic venue, which has a capacity of about 2,500 people.
Audience: A diverse group of fans – male and female, young and old, chatty and reserved – packed the house with calm expectancy. All seemed united by their enthusiasm for the artist, 25, born Andrew Hozier-Byrne.
Agenda: Hozier’s catalog is slender right now, with one full-length record and a couple of preliminary EPs to his credit. As expected, the 80-minute show offered a thorough examination of 2014’s “Hozier,” with a few bonus tunes tucked into the setlist.
Music style: An earthy blend of folk, pop and blues, with some Celtic and gospel influences. He’s a rock star; he’s a troubadour; he’s a choirboy.
Highlights: "Jackie and Wilson,“ "Work Song,” “In a Week,” “Someone New,” “Sedated,” “Cherry Wine,” “From Eden,” “Like Real People Do,” “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene,” “It Will Come Back,” “Illinois Blues.” (Hozier lauded Alvin Youngblood Hart’s arrangement of the latter, a Skip James cover.)
Breakthrough hit: Hozier made listeners wait for “Take Me to Church,” presenting the soaring anthem near the end of his primary set. Like almost everything in this show, the song acquired extra luster on stage, benefiting from the live performance.
Frontman: Hozier tackled each song with quiet intensity, displaying a surprising amount of stage confidence and charisma. His voice rang out with passion and precision; his guitar skills were impressive throughout. Hozier played acoustic, electric, slide and dobro, handling lead guitar duties with ease.
Backup: Hozier’s tour band – three men, three women – provided strong support on drums, bass, keyboards, cello and backing vocals. Cellist Alana Henderson was a standout, adding lovely textures to the music and teaming with Hozier for a duet on “In a Week.” (That’s a love song about decaying corpses in the hills of Wicklow County. Gothic, but it works.)
Kodak moment: Hozier granted a romantic request, allowing a fan to stage a marriage proposal before the final number. The guy asked; his girlfriend answered. Cheers erupted in the crowd. “Congratulations, Mr. & Mrs Pike!” Hozier said.
Verdict: Flavor of the month? Hardly. Hozier’s concert proved that he’s the real deal, transcending the hype and confirming his talents. The entire performance came across as rich and fully realized, heralding an artist who’ll have much more to say in the future.