HOZIER | The Fox Theatre | October 24, 2014

Hozier. A name we’ve all been hearing over the radio waves for a few months since the track “Take Me To Church” has made it’s way from commercial to commercial, station to station. It’s not often that people take a chance to dive into the rest of the catalog of an artist who some consider “a radio hit”, but after weeks of seeing over five different tracks from Hozier’s self-titled album sitting in the “Top Songs” chart on both iTunes and Spotify, I hunkered down for a listening session of the album. Little did I know I was stumbling across what I genuinely consider to be the premiere release of 2014. Andrew Hozier-Bryne, an Irish singer/songwriter, has been functioning under half of his surname since 2013, when “Take Me to Church” went viral on YouTube. After releasing two separate EPs in 2013, this self titled release of 2014 has been a slow, calculated progression, waiting to pounce on his audience when it was just right. It’s not often that you have the chance to see an artist perform live just as they’re breaking across the globe, but lucky for us, Hozier and his band visited The Fox Theatre towards the end of October, and I had the chance to catch their performance and see if his impressive recordings could translate into a successful live show. 

That Friday night the Fox Theatre was packed. I hadn’t seen it that loaded since The Fray’s secret show prior to their dates with U2 back in 2011. It was so packed, in fact, that I physically ran into Governor John Hickenlooper the minute I entered the room. Yes, the John Hickenlooper. What was he doing out at a show on the Friday prior to elections, you may ask? Campaigning? Or was our Governor there merely to tip his hat to this young artist? I choose to think it the latter, which is not only a powerful gesture, but a truly impressive commentary on just how quickly Hozier's music has captivated listeners by storm. The Hick can make his way into any show in the state, but choosing to take time out of his hectic, pre-election schedule to make it to this concert all the way up in Boulder? That’s commitment. That’s passion. A true compliment to the group.

After a quick set from opener James Bay, Hozier’s name appeared on a backdrop hanging above the stage. As the lights dimmed and the show began, a six-piece band followed by Mr. Hozier-Bryne took to the stage. His choice to travel with a full band not only surprised, but excited me. A cellist, two backing vocalists, a keys player, drummer, and a bass/tracks/backing vocalist surrounded the artist on stage, and filled the room with every distinct layer of each song. Listening to the album, the idea of someone performing such intricate songs without the proper instrumentation live broke my heart, so I was thrilled to hear the album fully come to life before me. Without sparing a minute to talk, the band immediately kicked into “Angel of Cold Death and the Codeine Scene”, “Jackie and Wilson, and “To Be Alone” - three of my favorite tracks off the record. It was with awe that I looked around the room and found a majority of the audience were singling along to every word - an uncommon sight for a band playing their first show ever in Colorado, especially one who’s known mainly for a radio hit. Fans other than myself had taken a chance on this album it appears, and I was not the only one who’d been hypnotized by it’s bluesy, soulful, singer/songwriter crossover. The show continued quickly without much small talk between songs - Hozier seemed a bit exhausted. Although it took no toll on his musical performance, it was clear that the artist has been working overtime doing press junkets, radio performances, and sold out shows such as this one. The artist played with skill and poise beyond his years, captivating the audience while seemingly calming the busy performer. Covering an old blues standard “Illinois Blues” by Skip James, Hozier finger picked the song with skill I haven’t seen in person in quite some time...if ever. His voice a soulful blend of Van Morrison with hints of The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach, he sounded identical to his recordings, perfect tone throughout the set despite his choice to be timid with some high notes. He was joined on “In A Week” by his cellist, Karen Cowly, who sings on the album version as well. A haunting song about two lovers who’ve passed and are waiting for their bodies to be found, I was mesmerized watching the duet, cheering right along with the crowd during the final chorus’ harmonies. 

Closing the show with a hilarious yet spot on cover of Amerie’s 2005 club hit “1 Thing” followed by the fan favorite “From Eden”, the audience erupted in roars, giving the band a standing ovation and allowing them to do a group bow onstage before walking off. Hozier’s album is powerful, deep, poetic, and is some of the best music I have heard in years. Emotional, sonically captivating, and lyrically brilliant - Hozier’s self titled album has become a default in my music library, and I can’t wait to see how this group’s live show grows and progresses when they come back to Denver next February.