Hozier at the INEC Gleneagle Hotel, Killarney, Co. Kerry, 21st December 2015

 Back from his American jaunt, Hozier is back at the INEC Killarney for his second Christmas gig in two years. In 2014, he complained about the crowd’s constant to-ing fro-ing to the bar. Tonight seems like it’ll be a similar affair, with a few illicit ID swaps spotted among the crowd.Before the Bray man graces the stage, other Bray favourites, Wyvern Lingo are up first. It’s almost boring writing about the girl band at this stage, for the simple fact that they are so consistently good.

Opener Sweet Life Ruiner boasts powerhouse R&B harmonising and slinky choruses. Their pirate flag of a banner behind them doesn’t do them justice – stage hands should take note. In parts, the band seem a bit downbeat, which is understandable, considering the pure contempt the crowd are showing them. Vocally, they have solidified themselves as some of the best in the game, at least in this country.

Their mash-up of Alt-J’s Left Hand Free and Envogue’s What’s It Gonna Be? is joyful, and totally makes up for closing track Subside, where the girls are impossible to distinguish individually.

Naturally, the man of the hour arrives on stage to an expected level of pandemonium. Hozier energy levels and overall confidence can vary with live shows. Thankfully, Like Real People Do is relinquished gleefully, and it’s undoubtedly his most confident show to date. It’s a loud crowd, but his stunning backing vocalists maintain the performance’s ethereal nature.

He continues to show off his polish with Angel Of Small Death…; a tour de force song matched only by the crowd’s ferocity in responding. Despite his relentless touring schedule, his voice has maintained, remaining as clarified as ever. His manic delivery is charming to watch, especially when you consider the hunched, subdued performance he gave at Indiependence a year and a half ago.

Jackie & Wilson is the strongest rendition of the night – vocals are tight, and a dark, bluesy introduction deviates from the norm: a welcome surprise. The LP version of From Eden continues to catch people in a live setting, particularly that instrumental sections towards the end, but it’s still cemented as a classic track.

The crowd gets restless at the worst possible times – during groovy cover of Blackbird, in which funk is embedded so deeply in the song it’s almost mistaken for a Jackson 5 track. Also, during It Will Come Back, people take it is an appropriate time to booze up. Hozier, for the most part, lets on that he’s oblivious to the goings on.

Just before In A Week, a four metre radius of space on the floor is cleared due to a young guy getting sick. Hozier’s explaination of the themes and lyrics of the song is completely lost in that moment, a the boy is propped up by a random member of the crowd until security comes.

To Be Alone and Arsonist’s Lullaby sees Hozier finally commit to the delivery of his dark lyrics. The swampy guitars on both tracks envelope his new found sinister tone. For once, he’s actually believable in what he’s singing, and he believes it too.

Not including Take Me To Church in the encore was unquestionably risky, especially given the young crowd. It’s certainly a solid performance, but the gig peters out from there. He is inaudible on acoustic track Cherry Wine, but just about brings it back for closer Work Song.

Hozier’s comments last year were understandable. Imagine trying to deliver a decent set with a myriad of drunk distractions in front of you? Despite the hurdles, Hozier gave a strong, professional set that he should be pleased with. It’s a shame the same can’t be said for the crowd.