To say success came quickly for Hozier is an understatement. The internet’s power to launch the Irish singer’s hit song, “Take Me to Church,” to a worldwide audience at breakneck speed came full circle this year with his Grammy nomination. His tour brought him to Atlanta’s Variety Playhouse this past Tuesday night, where an eager audience waited for him to make up for last year’s last-minute cancellation.
While there’s always the risk of the dreaded “One Hit Wonder” status when an artist’s first release hits mainstream popularity, one listen to his self-titled album and you know immediately that is not the case with Hozier. I was, however, curious as to how his somewhat somber, and at times beyond-his-years sound, would translate in a live environment.
When a piping hot cup of tea was placed at his mic, the crowd roared with anticipation, and suddenly Hozier’s towering six-foot-five figure graced the stage. While I would describe his presence as reserved, and even at times disconnected, he definitely commands the stage and creates an intimate atmosphere for the audience.
Though there wasn’t a great deal of audience interaction during the show, Hozier remarked that he didn’t expect the crowd to be close enough to touch him. He did apologize for the cancelled show last fall, and any remaining unhappiness was washed away with the soulful, haunting show he put on.
Hozier is a gifted storyteller, deftly telling tales of love and loss alongside themes of good and evil. Heavy stuff for a 24-year-old newcomer, but he and his band bring a lightness and energy to their live show.
As he made his way through a majority of the hits on his album, his voice was truly the star. Commanding and clear, he sounds incredible live — possibly even better than on the album. His powerful performance of “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene” was great, as was a solo acoustic version of “Cherry Wine.” And, yes, the crowd reached a frenzied status at the first note of “Take Me to Church.”
His haunting duet of “In a Week” with cellist Alana Henderson was a personal highlight of the night, bringing the excited crowd to complete silence, if only for a few moments. Another memorable moment came during the encore, where Hozier did an unexpected cover of Amerie’s “One Thing.” It was perfectly out of character, and the crowd loved it.
It’s obvious that Hozier is appreciative of his newfound fame — he introduced his band and thanked nearly every person on his crew by name down to guy at the merch table. A rarity in today’s industry, let’s hope he stays that way.
All photographs by Nora Artinian