When you put together a sold out venue, an unassuming Irish charm and a moniker that spells Hozier, expectations are bound to soar high up in the sky.
To his credit, the 25 year-old Grammy nominated artist lives up to the crowd’s expectations on his Sheffield date at the city’s O2 Academy.
Opening on a darker side with ‘Like Real People Do’ he sings, with half a dozen of performers backing him on the vocals, cello, keyboard and drums. Despite the venue and the massive troupe, it feels strangely intimate – like a languid baritone singing to you about love and loss at a small pub.
Tunes like ‘Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene’ and ‘From Eden’ achieve a convincing balance of pop, rock and soul without straying too far from the blues vibe that marks most of his composition. Alana Henderson’s cello segment in ‘From Eden’ definitely leaves spines tingling.
Moving with ease between shades of emotions, the multitude of riffs and thrumming beats are definitely more than something to show off dexterity and skill with instruments. They roll with the music adding texture and subtle layers.
But it is the acoustic duet ‘In a Week’ with Wyven Lingo’s Karen Cowley that shines brighter than the rest. Unwholesome yet utterly enchanting, the duo singing of death and decay bring out the philosopher in each audience member.
‘Arsonist’s Lullaby’ drips with darkness, as the tune thumps you into a rebellious glee. But the cover of ‘Blackbird’ by the Beatles is so subtle, that it becomes wholly unremarkable.
The vibe isn’t electric. It’s more like a wave that sweeps the audience along. Everyone is left swaying – till he rolls out ‘Take Me to Church’. If, having listened to the song far too many times, you don’t know what to expect. As the audience dramatically join in on the poetic and bold chorus it turns out the song still is the crowd pleaser. Although, it is a bit surprising that his hit single is buried in the far end of the set.
The acoustically brilliant track ‘Cherry Wine’ and ‘Work Song’ are served on the obligatory encore. Utterly surprisingly, phones actually go down, and the crowd claps on beat to ‘Work Song’. The groove and rhythm serve to drive home the point behind the song.
The only downside is that these tracks have been out for around a year or more now. Nevertheless, Hozier won the crowd over enough for us to crave for more of that tranquil rapture.