Hozier’s rise to the pinnacle of pop charts was dreamlike. With just sweeps of piano chords and booming, almighty basslines, “Take Me To Church” exalted Andrew Byrne-Hozier to household recognition across the United States.
It almost seems like it all went a bit too quickly for the Irishman. After all, Hozier’s breakout song was recorded for the first time in 2013, inside his parents’ attic in Eastern Ireland. Less than two years ago, the musician was still strumming for a handful of cafe patrons during open mic nights around Dublin. Last night, on the other hand, he played to thousands. By the end of his three night run at the Masonic, he will have played to around 10,000 people in San Francisco alone.
The hit song was composed after a breakup with a woman, but has come to be understood as an anthem of frustration against the Roman Catholic Church’s stance against gay marriage. Certainly, 2014 was the year a song like that would be successful. The nation’s mounting calls for acceptance and tolerance are only echoed by politically-charged music like ‘Take Me To Church’ — and the fact that the song was ironically written to sound like a gospel composition definitely helped facilitate its popularity.
But all in all, Hozier isn’t really a serious guy. The 25-year-old is particularly soft-spoken when he’s not ripping on his guitar, and he seems endlessly polite. At the end of his show, he went so far as to thank literally everyone on stage and in the sound booth, one by one. Nevertheless, watching the reserved musician surrounded by strobe lighting, backing vocalists, and a full band (in which some members were dealing with an unfortunate bout of food poisoning), it’s hard to not get tripped up by the dramatic footlights and extensive production. It’s a spectacle, and Hozier’s a big deal.
Still, Hozier is humble, and he pays reverence to the roots of his music. He’s clearly influenced by close harmonies and vocal inflections of traditional Irish music (as heard in ‘In A Week’, which he performed with Alana Henderson), but he also draws from American blues in his own way. For example, his cover of Skip James’ ‘Illlinois Blues’ was a respectful, modern take on the 1931 classic.
And Hozier seems to enjoy covers of all genres. In the past, he has taken on samples of Amerie and fun., and last night, he gave a folk spin on Ariana Grande’s ‘Problem‘ “just for funsies.”
My only gripe is that — as is often the case with artists who have only one album out — there was some filler. Not every song on From Eden needs to be performed on a stage. However, that’s nothing that a little new music won’t fix.
We’ll be looking forward to what comes next for the young bluesman.
View the whole gallery here.
Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene
Jackie and Wilson
To Be Alone
It Will Come Back
In a Week (with Alana Henderson)
Illinois Blues (Skip James cover)
Like Real People Do
Take Me To Church
Problem (Ariana Grande cover)