Hozier Orpheum, Vancouver BC, February 15
Published Feb 16, 2015Hozier is no hoser; Andrew Hozier-Byrne had a calming, genuine presence. He was clearly the star of this show as he came out onstage in front of the fresh-faced, overwhelmingly white all-ages crowd that had completely sold out the gorgeous Orpheum and collected his guitar, walking to the mic basked in a saintly spotlight, but he didn't appear desperate for that attention. In fact, before his encore cover of "Problem" by Ariana Grande — into which he infused parts of Warren G's "Regulate" — he introduced his six-piece band, and then thanked the sound, lighting and all of his backstage support staff by name, which shows you how much this guy cares about the people around him.
Granted, he didn't showcase an astounding amount of talent during this show. One had to make concessions for his vocals during "Someone New" and his falsetto on "Sedated," and though he played acoustic and electric guitar throughout the show, he wasn't particularly flashy on it. Some of the arrangements from his eponymous 2014 debut album leaned toward the muddled and middling end of the spectrum, too — medium energy.
However, there was some obvious magic sprinkled throughout. His duet with cellist Alanna Henderson, performing "In a Week" with only his guitar and their blissfully intertwined vocals, the steam rising off the backlit tea sitting in the cup holder of his mic stand, wafting up lazily as if to maintain the folksy pace of the song, was one of those perfect concert moments. His cover of "Illinois Blues" by Delta blues legend Skip James showed both his influences and his best fingerpicking, and it was hard not to get caught up in the energy of 3000 people belting out the hook of his biggest North American single, "Take Me to Church."
There is depth to his material: the dramatic piano line of "Sedated"; the interpreted politics of "Foreigner's God" and "Take Me to Church"; and the haunting choir vocals on waltz-y ballad "Like Real People Do," barn stomper "To Be Alone" and the sombre "Arsonist's Lullabye," the latter of which was highlighted by old timey lightbulbs cascading around the stage while the pianist played runs on a Nord Stage. There is latent influence from the music of the southern United States, namely gospel and, most notably, blues, and the slide on his finger added appropriate smoothness to "It Will Come Back."
Still, Hozier seemed a little out of his depth with a band and room this size. Clearly, Hozier's music already resonates with a great deal of people, many of whom waited outside the packed venue in desperate hopes of snagging a last minute no-show seat, but he still has some growing to do. When this plucky Irishman has more experience, with a few more albums and heartbreaks behind him, he could spark a true movement.
One hopes he can still find the space to grow naturally while living under a pop culture microscope that burns down so many young pop stars. And as he left the stage humbly bowing and tossing out some assuring double thumbs-ups, one got the feeling he's going to be just fine.