“Earlier this year I played my first show in New York,” says Hozier, his back guitar slung around his shoulder a shy grin on his face, “and that was the first time I thought that I could make money with this.” He shrugs, smiles a crooked smile and launches into his final song of the main set “Take Me To Church.” The crowd goes wild, every hundred plus voices joining the Irish singer songwriter in his breakout single.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
It’s Thursday, November 6 at Irving Plaza in the city, and Andrew Hozier-Byrne and band are about to play their final show of their US tour. The line at the venue stretches over at least 30 yards shortly before 7 pm. Tickets for this show were sold out months in advance, and the last time I checked they were sold on Stubhub for 140 bucks. Holy fuck. Talk about a breakout artist.
Anyhow, let’s not talk about the money, let’s talk about a show. James Bay, a chap with a hat, opens the show in front of a packed house. The 23 year-old throws down a solid set with mostly downtempo singer-songwriter folk songs reminiscent of fellow Brit Lewis Watson. His faster tunes, “When We Were On Fire” and “Hold Back The River,” shows a promising approach to his songwriting, paying homage to Americana artists like Tom Petty and The Black Crowes.
After a short break, and people all around screaming and clapping for him, Hozier finally takes the stage carrying a cup of tea – or a hot toddy? Who knows. He actually is as tall as he seems on TV as he grabs his guitar and glances in the audience, which is roaring for him. As he launches into the first song “Like Real People Do,” you can see him unwinding, catching a breath. His voice, this amazing soulful voice, booms across the hall entrancing the entire audience. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a voice quite like this. Hozier guides us through the night with most songs on his album – in fact the only song that didn’t make the cut was the anthemic “Foreigner’s God.”
Halfway though the set he relieves his band of their duty to perform two songs solo – a Skip James cover, “Illinois Blues” (God, I hope he continues in that direction. That would make my inner 70 year-old man very happy.) and “Cherry Wine.” After he performs a beautiful rendition of “In A Week” with his cello player Alana Henderson (check out her original music here), the band is invited back on stage and they close out the main set with “Work Song” (a personal favorite) and the inevitable “Take Me To Church.” At this point he seems pretty tired, 6 weeks of touring nonstop have definitely taken it’s toll. They come back for an encore and weirdly enough play a cover of Amerie’s 2005 R’n’B hit “1 Thing.” Pretty random choice, but somehow they make it work. Still you can hear his voice crack during the high parts, notes he had hit before without a problem. Must really be tea in that cup. Before they finish up for the night, Hozier takes the time to introduce his band, the sound guy, the lights guy, the guy behind the monitor, everyone. Hozier shares the fame. In fact, even though his interactions with the audience aren’t awkward at all, you can tell he really is the shy and humble guy from a small town in Ireland. Makes you want to fucking marry the guy. They close out with “From Eden,” title song of his second EP, an uplifting song that lets him find his voice again.
At this point in his career, Hozier really can’t complain – Billboard number 2 album, selling tour dates left and right. And it’s all well deserved. Let’s hope Hozier is here to stay, and writes more of those beautifully bluesy songs.
Like Real People Do
Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene
Jackie & Wilson
To Be Alone
It Will Come Back Illinois Blues (Skip James Cover) – solo
Cherry Wine – solo
In A Week (feat. Alana Henderson)
Take Me To Church
1 Thing (Amerie Cover)
Article by: Julia Maehner
Photos by: Lesley Keller