Live Review: Hozier // O2 Academy, Sheffield 11.01.16

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There are not many artists I would wait in the biting Sheffield cold for, in a rather large and smoky queue, in five-inch heels. However, if I had to make a list, Hozier would definitely be the first one for whom I’d make the effort.

I fell in love with Hozier’s album very soon after his hit single Take Me To Church first appeared on our radio stations. I find his voice so expressive, and his lyrics so chillingly poetic, that when the chance to see him live appeared (thinly veiled as a birthday present to my best friend), I couldn’t resist the thought of seeing such a compelling and magnetic person on stage.

Thankfully, I wasn’t disappointed. We entered the stylish, standing-room venue of the O2 Academy, complete with bulbous disco ball, and were excellently warmed up by the jangly Irish pop trio Wyvern Lingo, matching grungey electric guitar with quirky vocals and painfully catchy choruses.

However, it wasn’t until the lights dimmed for Hozier himself that I relaxed. He opened with ‘Like Real People Do’, featuring not only his sultry smooth vocals but an enthusiastic band that proved to be consistently impressive throughout the gig, including a multitude of drums, backing vocals, and a richly-toned cello that complemented Hozier’s distinctly powerful, effortless voice. There is nothing more disappointing than seeing an artist whose own singing is drowned out by the cacophony going on behind them, so to witness a band make music in such clear harmony was amazing, as was the obvious appreciation Hozier had for the people who made his gig possible, commending each member of the band in turn, and inviting Karen Cowley (one third of the supporting Wyvern Lingo) back onto stage to perform ‘In A Week’.

Regrettably, time seemed to fly quickly as Hozier made his way through the vast majority of his debut album, mingling more joyful, relaxed numbers such as ‘From Eden’, ‘Jackie and Wilson’ and ‘Someone New’ with a completely changed, charged atmosphere during intense renditions of ‘Angel Of Small Death & the Codeine Scene’, ‘It Will Come Back’, and ‘Arsonist’s Lullaby’, to name but a few.

What I found the most enjoyable about this gig, aside from the thrill of seeing one of my favourite artists perform live, was how much everyone else in the audience seemed to throw themselves into his songs, too. Hozier himself grinned on occasion when it seemed the audience’s vocals threatened to drown out his own, especially during the awaited finale performance of ‘Take Me To Church’. The building energy in the room was palpable, as every single person seemed to sing as hard as they could, and grasp onto whatever it was that this moving song represented to them.

For me, the song that I had been looking forward to the most, and the one Hozier had saved for his encore (returning after much vehement foot-stomping), was ‘Cherry Wine’. As I expected, his performance was simply beautiful, reflecting all of the subtlety and tenderness I have always heard when listening to the song at home. The entire audience seemed to hush for the quiet magic on stage – so, at this point, it was only necessary that I started crying, which was only increased when he completed the full gig with ‘Work Song’.

I left the gig overwhelmed at how easily Hozier could command his audience whilst armed only with an acoustic guitar and admirable man-bun, something which really stands to testify how emotive his songs really are, and how meaningfully, and genuinely, he expresses them on a stage.

Words by Megan Harding

Picture: Alexia Arrizabalaga / Troubleshooteur.com

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