Show Review: Hozier at the Wonder Ballroom

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Photo by Kevin Kenly – Click to view full-size

Hozier at the Wonder Ballroom

Words by: Caroline Bradley

Photos by: Kevin Kenly

It isn’t often that you find an artist whose popularity has skyrocketed nearly as fast as that of Hozier. Less than a year ago, if someone said his name to you, you would have no idea who they are talking about. Today, you can’t watch a simple YouTube video without getting “Take Me To Church,” his explosive and politically charged hit single advertised to you ad nauseum, since his first full length album was recently released.

Hozier is a 6’5” beauty of an Irishman with long wispy hair, whose songs tell tales of love and loss, tragedy and triumph, and substance abuse. He has quickly developed himself a rabid fanbase. Since being discovered, Hozier has been selling out club level rooms faster than they could possibly print the tickets. He’s sold out nearly all of his upcoming shows both here stateside and internationally through March of next year. Secondary market tickets are being resold for hundreds above original asking price.

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Photo by Kevin Kenly – Click to view full-size

Come show night in Portland, OR, Hozier fans have been waiting in a line that stretches over three blocks for over three hours before the opening act even takes the stage. All of this waiting, simply to get as close as humanly possible to the young man himself. As he takes the stage, few knew what to expect. After opening with a beautiful rendition of “Like Real People Do,” the audience could feel the performer’s nerves. As sweat rolls down his long and thin face and into his patchy beard, you can see his eyes dart around the room uncomfortably as middle aged women catcall him, and he cannot muster a response.

 

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Photo by Kevin Kenly – Click to view full-size

While his voice absolutely lives up to his new album, his lack of a stage presence made for a less than thrilling show. Audience members repeatedly asked questions and made comments in between songs, to which he almost never had a response. Not that this is a bad thing, the music was spot on, but as he stared down at his feet while he gave brief descriptions of the inspiration for songs, it was clear that his live show could use a little work.

Some of the highlights to the show came when he had his eyes shut tight, and seemingly left the room mentally. “Cherry Wine,” is another tune from his original EP that also made his new album, and the lyrics and melody had the room in a moment of silent bliss. The best moment musically in this show came from a duet with just Hozier and cellist Karen Cowley, who is also a native to Ireland. The duo found pitch perfect harmonies in “In a Week,” a slightly morbid song about two young lovers who lay in the grass, and are feasted upon by bugs, birds, and are effectively reintroduced into the circle of life.

 

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Photo by Kevin Kenly – Click to view full-size

The audience was not left wanting much, musically. The real surprise of the night came with the set closer being “Take Me To Church.” Most of the audience expected the fledgling artist’s breakthrough hit to close out the night, but instead he chose to end the show with his most upbeat and catchy song, “From Eden.” This song is unlike most of his material in its fun and bouncy nature.

All in all, a live Hozier show is an interesting experience where musically it sounds as though you are listening to his album through a loudspeaker system, but he still has yet to come into his own in front of a crowd. Once he truly blossoms, and comes out of his shell, he will the whole package, but this may be a lot to ask from a brilliant songwriter who only moved out of his parents attic less than a year ago.

 

 

Hozier 5While Hozier may already be hugely popular, he still has big things on the horizon. Only time will tell if he will become the master entertainer, or remain the awkward yet gorgeous poet his fans have fallen in love with.

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About Caroline Bradley & Kevin Kenly