Hozier + Alana Henderson @ The Institute, 23rd January 2015

Hozier +  Alana Henderson @ The Institute, 23rd January 2015Hozier +  Alana Henderson @ The Institute, 23rd January 2015Hozier +  Alana Henderson @ The Institute, 23rd January 2015Hozier +  Alana Henderson @ The Institute, 23rd January 2015Hozier +  Alana Henderson @ The Institute, 23rd January 2015Hozier +  Alana Henderson @ The Institute, 23rd January 2015Hozier +  Alana Henderson @ The Institute, 23rd January 2015Hozier +  Alana Henderson @ The Institute, 23rd January 2015Hozier +  Alana Henderson @ The Institute, 23rd January 2015Hozier +  Alana Henderson @ The Institute, 23rd January 2015

 

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Friday night at The Institute was packed to the rafters for a sold out show from Andrew Hozier Byrne, better known simply as Hozier. Looking at the tour page on his official website earlier that day the remaining UK dates and almost all of his dates in America are SOLD OUT! If you’re thinking of seeing him when he returns to the UK in May then you need to be prepared to spend some big money on those glossed up ticket tout websites because those dates are also gone too!

As Hozier and his band took to the stage they were met with huge cheers; the loudest of those cheers clearly coming from the women in the audience. With a simple “Hello” the band went straight into the first three songs barely stopping between them. First track ‘Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene’ with its stomping beat, electric guitar and gospel-infused backing proved a perfect opening, immediately confirming just how big his vocals are. Effortlessly rich and commanding he won the crowd over and it really struck me how a man in his mid-twenties can sound so polished and mature. Hearing him perform the extremely catchy ‘Someone New’ there is a clear similarity to Van Morrison, not only in his Irish vocals but also in his fusion of blues guitar and Celtic plucking.

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Backing vocals are a vital part of the Hozier experience and the band, along with backing singers, injected a heavenly layer of choir-like humming, wooing and gospel power to the show, adding powerful anthemic qualities to the likes of ‘From Eden’ and ‘Sedated’.

Between songs he spoke softly and was clearly humbled by the crowd’s reception. That’s always a good thing to see with an artist whose career has exploded overnight. Selling out shows night after night, you would think that he would have become used to his success by now, yet he still comes across as very ‘down to earth’. Clearly proud of his roots, it was also apparent that he has a strong native following judging by all the cheers in the audience whenever he mentioned the Emerald Isle.

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Another solid element to his band came from Alana Henderson (also support act) who not only played cello and keyboard throughout the set but also joined the lead singer for ‘In A Week’; a song about a couples blissful shared death.  Hozier enlightened us where the idea for this song came from: it was inspired by Wicklow Hills near Hozier’s home town, he said “The only time you hear of Wicklow Hills is before or after the words “a body is found” “. Lit by spotlights, the two performers’ delicate vocals entwined sublimely as the crowd watched silently.

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The first cover song of the night ‘Illinois Blues’, originally sung by American blues musician Skip James, was unfortunately a forgettable moment for many. Clearly an inspiration of Hozier’s, it was well executed but didn’t hold the attention of the crowd as the volume of chatter around rose.

What had felt like an interlude was soon forgotten as the band belted out a series of thunderous big songs. ‘To Be Alone’ was one of the highlights of the night. The big blues: guitar riffs, pounding drums and a haunting southern melody with superb vocals from the band.

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The biggest highlight for many came next. As the opening chord to ‘Take Me to Church’ was struck, the crowd burst into song “My lover’s got humour, she’s the giggle at a funeral”. The crowd became an extension to the choir singing ‘Amen’ back at the smiling singer who was clearly humbled. Those who had sneaked out for a smoke came charging back in through the rear exit raising their mobile phones to try and capture the moment and this excitement continued on to ‘Foreigners God’.

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My only criticism, and it is only small, is that sometimes the music and the vocals are so polished that it sounds just like listening to the album. It’s early days still for Hozier so deviation from the formula will most likely evolve over time but I’d have liked to have heard some new elements thrown into the mix.

The 4 song encore’s most memorable moment had to be the cover of Amerie’s 2005 R&B hit ‘1 Thing’. This was a welcome upbeat and fun moment that was uniquely executed and a break from all the serious music.

The night ended with “Work Song”, a powerful moody ballad with more trademark gospel humming but tonight ended with a girl in the audience shouting her love for Hozier in a colourful manner that was understood and cheered by the crowd.

One thing I am convinced of is that on his next tour Hozier is going to be playing bigger venues so it was a real treat to see him playing at the Institute.

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Tonight I’ve been amazed at how richly talented and soulful Hozier is, especially considering his age, and how he has blended Blues, Soul, Celtic Folk and Rock ‘n Roll into a timeless mainstream package.

He’s got solid touring ahead of him from now until next February. I strongly suggest you try and find yourself a ticket!

Set list

Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene
From Eden
Jackie and Wilson
Someone New
Sedated
It Will Come Back
In a Week
Illinois Blues (Skip James cover)
Like Real People do
Arsonist’s Lullaby
To Be Alone
Take me to Church
Foreigner’s God

Encore

Cherry Wine
Run
1 Thing (Amerie cover)
Work Song

Review and Photography : Matt Thorpe

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