Last week in New York City, future songwriting superstar Hozier
(real name: Andrew Hozier-Byrne) concluded his headlining North American tour with the final show of a two night stand at Irving Plaza. The evening marked a marvelous celebration of an artist who has truly come of age on these American shores the last few weeks, highlighted by a string of shows, his recent appearance on Saturday Night Live
and as the emotional soundtrack to King James' return to Akron
. With a sold out show at the Beacon Theater already on the books this March, last week's show might have been the last time New Yorkers would have the opportunity to take in his moody, dramatic, and somewhat supernatural folk-rock in an intimate setting. For his part, the 24 year-old singer-songwriter was nothing short of special.
The first thing that hits you is the voice that falls out of the tall, lanky, long-haired Irishman. I can only say that it is startling the first time you soak it in, in the best possible way. Its' tremendous, gale force takes a few moments to completely acclimate to...a steam-rolling, emotional experience best unfurled during the gospel-tinged "Work Song" and the getting-damn-near-ubiquitous single "Take Me To Church". This is not the pretty, falsetto'd, vulnerable soul Sam Smith is wooing his audience with. It is deep and rich and supremely confident. It is also kind of spooky, especially when accompanied by the somewhat twisted, Irish musical traditions built up around it.
If ears were ringing upon the audiences' release from the venue (mine certainly were), its' because of the immense, cinematic soundtrack the 7 musicians on stage created. As big as Hozier's voice is (and it is HUGE), there were moments where it too was overpowered, lost in a vast, foggy landscape of crashing cymbals, pounding drums of war, surreal slices of cello, and a backup chorus of foreboding sirens. At its peak, it's some of the most gigantic folk music you'll ever encounter...though, like a good artist, Hozier and his bandmates do not always take you there.
There were moments where musicians wandered on and wandered off the stage, creating a dynamic ebb and flow to the evening. "In A Week", for example, was the evening's most contemplative song...a somewhat traditional sounding duet with cellist Alana Henderson
. It also might be one of the year's prettiest, most romantic musing about decomposing bodies.
Have a look at a handful of photos captured by photographer Mark Brown, and do keep your eyes peeled on future North American dates later this spring. They're going to go fast.
NPR produced a spectacular capture of "Work Song" at The Newport Folk Festival earlier this summer.