Few mainstream chart artists could turn up to a subway station and just sing with nothing to hide behind: no backing track, no autotune, no gimmicks. Perhaps even fewer would be able to livestream this performance and see it go completely viral simply for how good it is – for Hozier, however, this is a reality.
Irish singer-songwriter Andrew Hozier-Byrne and his band are truly a powerhouse when it comes to live performances. One can scroll through innumerable YouTube videos from any of his concerts and find that each of them is packed with an infectious energy and enthusiasm, and stunning harmonies from a ridiculously talented group of multi-instrumentalists.
It is this group that make the spectacle of seeing Hozier live so special. This is a sentiment that he himself seems to agree with, considering the efforts he makes not only to introduce each individual member to the audience, but also in how each song he performs is tailored to showcase different band members, such as having organ, bass and violin solos in ‘Almost (Sweet Music)’. The seven other musicians on stage seem to bring a new dimension to these songs, which is no mean feat considering how successful his first two albums have been.
Despite his discography being brilliant alone, it would seem criminal not to acknowledge his talent at adapting songs for covers, whether for Radio 1 Live Lounges (where he has covered songs such as ‘Do I Wanna Know?’ and ‘Lay Me Down’), or for his tour (which has previously included ‘Say My Name’). He puts his own unique spin on each one so effortlessly that sometimes it becomes difficult to believe that his versions weren’t the originals.
When artists rework their own most famous songs at live shows, it can have a mixed reception – whilst regular concert-goers might like to hear things mixed up a bit, for some people it may be disappointing to hear a different version of something that means so much to them. Hozier, however, navigates this line very well. The stripped back acoustic version of ‘From Eden’ seems to emphasise the beauty of the lyrics, and in videos of these performances the crowds seem utterly enthralled by it, as they have similarly been by a ‘jazz’ version of ‘Someone New’.
One song that, understandably, has not been altered is his breakthrough single ‘Take Me To Church’ – the joy with which crowds sing along to this song is unparalleled, particularly when the man himself comes down to join the audience. It demonstrates not only Hozier’s immense vocal ability, but also how truly gifted he is as a songwriter; there certainly isn’t a dull moment. The personal highlight of any show for me, however, has to be ‘Work Song’ – whilst the studio version is stunning, the acapella harmonies that end this song are nothing short of angelic.