Hozier at the Olympia Theatre, Dublin, 4 December 2014
“Give me a chance!”
These were the first words uttered by Andrew Hozier-Byrne as he was welcomed with such a roar that it took a few minutes for calmness to descend so that the Wicklow native could begin proceedings.
Those four words are particularly apt for this show. Despite drawing huge crowds at the likes of Longitude and Electric Picnic this year, Hozier‘s live performances have been somewhat flat when compared to his explosively passionate recorded material. Not tonight. Tonight he affirmed his position as a potential superstar.
Before it all began, it was down to members of Hozier’s band that provided the support on the night. Cellist Alana Henderson impressed us with her ability to pen some catchy tunes, appearing with only a cello and a minimalist drum-kit in tow. Her penchant for giving detailed descriptions of her songs’ meanings may have been a result of nerves, but the result was nonetheless endearing.
Next up were Wyvern Lingo, two of whom provide backing vocals for Hozier. The trio from Bray were visibly nervous and a slight technical hiccup at the very beginning of the set didn’t do much to help the situation. However, despite the setback, they still managed to impress. Following a particularly striking rendition of the a capella tune Used, Wyvern Lingo were met with a momentary stunned silence, the quietest the Olympia was all evening.
Hozier claims to be “ill-suited” to fame, and as he ambled on stage shortly after 9.15 you can begin to understand where he’s coming from.
He’s tall – awkwardly tall, in fact – and oh so quiet. A single lock of hair hangs down over his face as he shyly looks at his shoes and waits for the welcoming applause to end. But don’t let him fool you. Mr. Byrne is as charismatic as they come when it comes to working a crowd. His soft-spoken nature belies his ability to belt out every carefully-crafted lyric with pure, raw emotion. He can even handle the odd heckler with supreme coolness.
“You’re a right fucking charmer, aren’t you?” he replied to calls from the balcony, with a cheeky grin on his face.
However, it’s the music we came to hear. Real People Do kicks off proceedings before the powerhouse that is From Eden gets the vocal chords of those in attendance warmed up in an instant. It’s a real mixed crowd ranging from teenage girls to those closer to retirement. Hozier holds that rare quality of being a truly universal artist.
The mid-section of the set took the noise levels down a notch as the band exits the stage, leaving Hozier alone with an acoustic guitar. A rendition of Skip James’ Illinois Blues gives an indication of the man’s musical upbringing, before he’s joined on stage by Wyvern Lingo’s Karen Cowley for In A Week. The contrast between Hozier’s brooding vocal and Cowley’s sweet, dulcet tones silences the room and leaves some in tears. It was a truly stunning performance from the Wicklow duo.
Take Me To Church – the song that started it all – closes the set. This was the big test: could Hozier bring the same raw passion of the (now Grammy-nominated) tune to a live setting? On this form, there was never any doubt really. Every note is on point. It was the ideal rendition.
A two-song encore contained an extremely gimmicky cover of Amerie’s One Thing, which would have been far better off being left at home. But we’ll allow him one slip, since The Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene brought things right back on track, sending the enthralled audience into raptures in the process.
Believe the hype, Hozier is not here to take part. He’s here to take over.