Hozier @ O2 Academy Birmingham, 9 July 2023 

Hozier, the master of blues-infused rock-indie, graced the stage of O2 Academy in Birmingham on Sunday night captivating the eager crowd with his ethereal voice and mesmerizing performance.  Almost four years since his last UK tour the gig formed part of his highly anticipated “Unreal Unearth” tour.   This was a night filled with raw emotion, powerful lyrics and an atmosphere that left everyone in awe, especially in such an intimate venue for the world-renowned artist, although he already announced his future arena tour at the end of this year. 

Hozier, both an incredible person and an amazing singer, has built a solid fan base through his exceptional talent, genuine authenticity, and unwavering dedication to his craft. With his soulful voice and poetic songwriting, Hozier has the remarkable ability to captivate listeners and touch their hearts. But it is not just his music that has endeared him to fans around the world. 

Hozier’s down-to-earth nature, humble demeanour and genuine appreciation for his supporters and collaborators have fostered a strong and loyal following.   Over the last decade, since the release of the all-times hit “Take Me To Church” Hozier’s genuine artistry, combined with his warmth and compassion, has made him not only a remarkable musician, but also a beloved figure who continues to inspire and uplift us all. 

Victoria Canal, an inspirational and unstoppable force, fearlessly took the stage as the opening act for Hozier, with a blend of soulful and heartfelt lyrics, as well as powerful vocals and introspective songs. Not only is Victoria an incredibly talented musician, but she also embraces her identity as a person with a disability, fearlessly breaking down barriers and inspiring others along the way. With unapologetic honesty, her songs addressed her own experiences, shedding light on her journey and inviting the audience into her world. 

From the moment she came on stage and announced plainly that she’s on her period, which was the reason for her simple outfit, her raw vulnerability and unwavering determination resonated deeply with the crowd. Victoria’s performance was a testament to the power of music as a tool for empowerment and self-expression, leaving an unforgettable impact on all who witnessed her awe-inspiring performance and encouraging all of us to embrace our own unique journeys. She is definitely a rising star and I would recommend everyone to look her up if you’re still unfamiliar with her music. 

As Victoria Canal’s final notes resonated through the venue, the air crackled with excitement. The stage was set, and the atmosphere became electric. After a short break, when almost no one even flinched, the lights dimmed, and Hozier emerged, exuding an aura of mystery and allure. The crowd erupted with thunderous applause as the band seamlessly transitioned into the opening song, “Unknown/Nth,” enveloping the venue in a wave of atmospheric sound. 

The setlist was a carefully curated selection that showcased Hozier’s range and artistry. Going straight into his newest album “Unreal Unearth”, “Eat Your Young” followed, a powerful anthem that showcased his bluesy rock roots. The pulsating rhythm and uplifting guitar solos ignited the crowd, setting the stage for an unforgettable night. As the band kicked in, the hardcore bass and drums added an electrifying edge to the performance, alternating between delicate and powerful. 

Hozier’s charismatic presence filled the stage, captivating everyone with his distinctive voice and magnetic charm. His lyrics spoke directly to the hearts of the crowd, and his commanding stage presence and infectious charisma kept everyone entranced throughout the night. 

Hozier’s band, composed of exceptionally talented musicians, flawlessly accompanied his every move. The synergy between the artists was obvious and the rhythmic beats of the drums, the melodic wails of the guitar, and the gentle caress of the piano keys, along with everything else his band excelled at the entire night (including banjo and cello!), allowed Hozier’s vocals to shine throughout the entire night, resulting in a sonic landscape that was both captivating and emotionally charged. The band’s energy was infectious, their enthusiasm radiating from the stage. 

What sets Hozier apart as an artist is the originality and authenticity that permeates his music. With each song, he masterfully combines elements of blues, rock, and soul, resulting in a sound that is uniquely his own. From the softer, introspective moments to the powerful, bass-driven tracks that had the audience bouncing in unison, Hozier’s versatility and musical prowess were on full display. 

Hozier’s connection with the audience was palpable. Whether he was sharing stories, engaging in playful banter, or expressing his gratitude for the fans’ unwavering support, he had a way of making everyone in the venue feel seen and valued. This sense of camaraderie and mutual appreciation further elevated the concert, transforming it into a shared experience of pure musical bliss. He even made sure to thank not only every band member, but also to everyone who helped him put this concert together and made sure to express his appreciation for each and every person mentioned. 

As the night unfolded, Hozier took the audience on a journey through his discography, blending fan favourites with lesser-known gems. The opening chords of “Jackie and Wilson” reverberated through the venue, instantly captivating the crowd. Hozier’s rich, soulful voice filled every corner of the room, its warmth and depth enveloping the audience. The band, a well-oiled machine, flawlessly accompanied Hozier’s every move, weaving a tapestry of blues, rock, and folk influences. 

From the foot-stomping energy of “From Eden” to the introspective introspection of “To Be Alone,” each song in Hozier’s setlist was meticulously crafted to take the audience on an emotional journey. The tender “Dinner & Diatribes” showcased the band’s tight rhythm section, with thunderous drums and a pulsating bassline driving the song’s infectious groove. The gentle strumming of the guitar on “Francesca”, another one from his yet unreleased album, created an intimate ambiance, allowing Hozier’s evocative lyrics to take center stage. His charismatic movements and effortless guitar skills added an extra layer of dynamism to the performance, drawing the audience even closer into his world. 

“Unreal Unearth” is set to be released on the 18th of August (although amusingly Hozier did actually say April by accident), so definitely keep an eye out for that! 

Another highlight was definitely when Hozier invited Victoria Canal back to the stage for a duet of “Like Real People Do.” Their voices blended harmoniously, creating a beautiful synergy that emphasised the emotional depth of the song. It was a moment of pure musical magic, where two exceptional talents came together to create something extraordinary. 

The ethereal notes of “I, Carrion (Icarian)” filled the venue, transporting the audience to a world of haunting beauty. Hozier’s voice soared, delicately navigating the intricate melodies, while the atmospheric instrumentals enveloped the crowd in a sea of introspection. 

As the setlist continued, Hozier showcased his versatility as an artist. The anthemic “Would That I” had the crowd clapping and stomping along, while “Someone New” provided a glimpse into Hozier’s ability to craft infectious pop-infused melodies. The pulsating bass lines and lively guitar hooks had the crowd dancing and singing along, the euphoria palpable in every corner of the venue. 

The haunting yet seductive “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene” showcased Hozier’s ability to infuse his music with a touch of darkness. The driving rhythm and soulful vocals created a mesmerising atmosphere, a perfect balance of intensity and vulnerability. 

The upbeat melodies of “Almost (Sweet Music)” swept through the venue with a sense of joy and celebration. The infectious groove and catchy lyrics had the audience singing and dancing along, creating an exuberant atmosphere. 

The concert reached its climax with the iconic “Take Me to Church.” The song’s haunting opening chords sent shivers down our spines, and as Hozier’s voice soared to new heights, the crowd united in an explosive chorus of voices. Even if you have probably heard it before a thousand times, nothing compares to the live version. The performance was a testament to the enduring power of this modern-day classic, a cathartic moment that showcased the profound impact Hozier’s music has on his fans. 

A bouquet of sunflowers landed on stage, which the singer gracefully thanked for and recommended his fan to go to the Olympics with an aim like that. He also reminded us all how sunflowers are the symbol of peace in Ukraine, as he is not one to stay away from social issues he believes in. 

As the final notes of “Take Me to Church” faded, the stage fell into darkness. The venue reverberated with thunderous applause, a testament to the emotional connection that this song has forged with audiences worldwide, and definitely here in Birmingham. 

The sing along was just incredible for the entire night, even for new songs or not officially released ones yet. Although it’s safe to say that the majority of the world is familiar with “Take Me To Church”, a show like tonight proved that, for his fans, there are so many absolute favourites out there with lyrics learnt by heart. It might be the song that sent him directly towards fame all those years ago but it was clear it wasn’t the only reason so many people came, like it usually is when an artist is known for one hit particularly. 

As the concert came close to an end, the audience erupted in thunderous applause, demanding an encore. Hozier returned to the stage, accompanied by a hushed silence. The intimate rendition of “Cherry Wine” held the crowd in a state of reverence, as Hozier’s tender vocals painted a poignant picture of love and resilience. The vulnerability in his voice and the delicate strumming of the guitar created a bittersweet atmosphere, leaving the audience spellbound. 

Of course Hozier also mentioned how it’s nice to be back in Birmingham – sober this time! But there’s obviously some backstory to that. Apparently he’s prone to hitting his head onto things, and also four years ago he played in Manchester where he threw his back quite badly so he received a lot of codeine for his pain, so you can imagine the next day when he came to play in Birmingham! We all laughed at his story, but we also found out his only two rules on tour: “We don’t do tracks and we don’t do smack!” 

Closing the night was the anthemic “Work Song,” a perfect choice to leave a lasting impression. The raw energy of the song resonated in every beat, the lyrics echoing through the hearts of every listener, bringing the concert to an electrifying finale. With each note, Hozier poured his heart and soul into the performance, leaving everyone amazed by his immense talent. 

As the final notes of the encore faded away, the audience was left in a state of awe and deep appreciation. 

Hozier’s “Unreal Unearth” concert at the O2 Academy was a night filled with raw emotion, powerful music, and an electric atmosphere. From the vulnerable and empowering performance by Victoria Canal to Hozier’s captivating stage presence and remarkable vocal range, every aspect of the night was a testament to the power of live music. The seamless blend of soft, introspective moments and hardcore, energetic tracks created a dynamic experience that left the audience breathless. 

Hozier’s ability to craft songs that touch the soul and create a feel-good atmosphere was nothing short of remarkable. In this intimate setting, he proved once again why he is hailed as one of the most exceptional and genuine artists of our time.

It was a night where the audience sang, laughed, and connected with Hozier on a deeply personal level, reminding everyone of the transformative and cathartic power of music and leaving us inpatient for his winter tour, at the arena next time. 


Eat Your Young
Jackie and Wilson
From Eden
To Be Alone
Dinner & Diatribes
Like Real People Do (with Victoria Canal)
I, Carrion (Icarian)
Would That I
Someone New
Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene 

Almost (Sweet Music) Movement
Take Me to Church 


Cherry Wine Work Song 

Review and photos by Andra Tudoran 

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