Hozier – Took us to the Rockhal

It’s quite a feat for a musician with just one album to their name to bypass many of the smaller venues and go straight to playing in front of a couple of thousand at the Rockhal. But that’s exactly what Hozier did last night on his first visit to Luxembourg.

It’s also something you can do when you’ve experienced the unimagined success of a debut single such as “Take Me To Church”. Hozier’s slow burning super hit back in 2013 seemed to seep into the public psyche over the next couple of years and has given him a platform few artists could possibly imagine.

One act who is looking to emulate such a feat is English singer-songwriter Rhodes who seems to have supported everyone of note over the last couple of years from George Ezra and London Grammar to Sam Smith. As he opened the evening he oozed the confidence and swagger of a man who has played to many big crowds already. His powerful vocals and sharp guitar tones blended in nicely with his melancholic sound. I’m sure his name will appear more prominently soon enough.

After two years of solid touring Hozier was still looking and sounding on top form, there was no sign of fatigue in his vocals or charisma as his self-effecting persona came across charming throughout the night, with him laughing and chatting away to the crowd on many occasions.

With a 6 piece band behind him it was evident this was not going to be a stripped back blues affair. Playing such large venues has afforded him the luxury to build a grander sound and with the addition of backing singers it only heightened the production of the evening. It was less blues troubadour and more blues pop star.

With the full band there was an extra urgency to the tracks, which took “Arsonist’s lullaby” and “Sedated” into the realm of gospel anthems with the soaring harmonies. The only issue was it became all too polished at points. This is where the juxtaposition of trying to marry his blues roots and his mainstream pop appeal came into affect.

He seemed to be at his best on “To Be Alone” & “Work Song” when the band took a step back and let Hozier with his fingerpicking blues guitar take centre stage. There were even moments of just Hozier, like on “Work Song”. Alana Henderson his cellist joined him on vocals for “In A Week” which produced the tenderest moment of the night with stunning vocal harmonies between the pair. This was followed by cries from the crowd that Hozier should marry his counterpart to the amusement and embarrassment of them both.

However when the band can come back and deliver with the power they did on “Take Me To Church” you can understand the temptation to keep them on every track. It’s a triumph of a song on every level and the epic scale to their sound even managed to make the Rockhal feel like intimate surroundings.

Where Hozier will go with the notorious difficult second album will be interesting, but there was no inkling on last nights show, not even a new song. So either he’s yet to write new tracks or he’s just keeping it all very under wraps, whatever the direction he decides to go down it looks like his devoted congregation will follow.

21/01/16 Rockhal

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