Irish singer-songwriter Hozier rocked the sold-out Commodore Ballroom on Monday night for his much anticipated Vancouver stage debut.
It was just a year ago, a bluesy YouTube video released by Andrew-Hozier Byrnes called “Take Me to Church” got a massive positive response from the global online community. And in just a few months, with just an EP out, the twenty-four year old was a feature on many music blogs, a performer at some of the world’s largest music festivals, and a headliner to his own string of sold-out shows. His debut album was just released a few weeks ago, and he was the featured musical guest on Saturday Night Live earlier this month. And with Hozier, the hype is real.
The unmistakable voice charged with blues and soul filled the air of the venue as Hozier began his set with the mellow “Like Real People Do”. On stage, he’s joined by four band members and two backup singers from Nashville, TN. With his (now) signature ponytail, a plaid shirt, and a hot cup of tea attached to his mic, Hozier’s performance from the start is accompanied by plenty of audience participation- many of whom know each track word for word.
The sound and acoustics at the Commodore Ballroom fully complimented Hozier and his band, who performed with him for a few tracks before leaving stage to let the new star shine. Hozier is that type of musician who clearly loves his craft. There is depth and passion with each strum on his guitar, and each word he sings. Everything about Hozier is evident in one performance of “Cherry Wine”, with just him and his guitar, and an audience left in awe.
With his band, which includes a cellist, his upbeat, blues tracks show a diverse spread of arrangements and vocals. From “Jackie and Wilson” to “It Will Come Back”, then to his cover of Skip James’ track “Illinois Blues”, Vancouver suddenly felt like New Orleans.
At times, the charming Hozier would forget his lyrics and give the audience a cheeky smile, but no one seemed to mind as they filled his gaps with their loud singing voices. “I’m not having a good night for lyrics,” he joked. His sense of humour, and Irish accent, were displayed as he introduced his duet “In a Week” with his cellist, Alana Henderson. He said the song was about a place near where he grew up, called Wicklow Hills, which was only written about “before or after a body has been found. It’s a really popular place,” he smiled. The duet was on key, and simply stunning.
He performed his hit “Work Song” prior to his encore, which featured an upbeat and interesting cover of the 2005 Amerie song “1 Thing” (yes, remember that?) to which the crowd danced to when they recognized it. He ended his glorious debut with fan-favourite “From Eden”, and thanked the crowd many times for making his first show in Vancouver “special”.
There is no doubt Hozier is a force in music that will not soon disappear. Even prior to his show this week, his second Vancouver show was announced last month and tickets are extremely limited at this time. Hozier returns with his Mississippi blues on February 15 at the Orpheum.
And if you missed him this week, try not to miss the next one. Seriously.