Gigs of the week: Hozier in Cork and Belfast
The Co Wicklow singer is a natural performer and lives for the stage
Hozier performing at the Safe Ireland Summit, where Global and National leaders on Domestic Violence gathered in Dublin. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Many are called but few are chosen, but if there is one Irish songwriter who prefers the stage to the studio then it is County Wicklow’s Andrew Hozier-Byrne. The man loves music from tip to toe – he is a songwriter and performer who exists as much for his songs as in them, and while studio work provides the structural nuts and bolts and all the other stuff that goes into block-building the music, being on stage is the raison d’être.
“The sound of the human voice in harmony was an early joy for me,” he told this writer some months ago, “and singing in choirs growing up was always something that fascinated me. Hearing harmonised duets as a kid, too, was something else. Human voices in harmony carry a level of energy that no instrument can deliver – it’s guttural, and human beings have possibly evolved to respond to that. You can hear in a voice when there is grief or jubilation, and in a primal way you can latch on to that.” See what we mean? The guy lives and breathes it.
It has always been this way for Hozier. We recall seeing an early show of his at Other Voices in Dingle in the winter of 2013, and admiring how he dug into the performance like a man possessed (albeit simultaneously petrified). Similarly, about five years later, seeing him return to the small stage at Dublin’s Academy, where he previewed several tracks from his then-unreleased second album, Wasteland, Baby!, there was the sense that while an irritating itch was being scratched, the relief from it was beyond pleasurable.
Some might argue that Hozier isn’t reinventing the wheel with his subtle, often sensual, occasionally heavy-handed blues-infused music. They’d be absolutely right, but those same people could well be overlooking certain elements to the music that is crucial to not only the man’s success but also to his status as a most reflective, highly intelligent songwriter. By any reckoning, there are extremely few songwriters that have cogently written tunes about sustainability, refugees, identity, religion, human rights, LGBTQ+ rights, other political concerns and, yes, barefaced sexual congress that you get to hear on the radio on a regular basis. That Hozier can and is doing this, as well as running such themes in parallel with music that, at its best, can conjure up the pastoral as well as the carnal – without leaning whatsoever on clichéd moon-in-June tropes – is wholly commendable.
The two Irish open-air shows Hozier is playing next week reside within a lengthy worldwide tour that continues until the end of the year. The Bray wanderer will, of course, be plugging his second album, which (a Billboard top placing notwithstanding) appears to be rolling out somewhat slower than his 2014 self-titled debut. Not that the even-tempered musician is concerned about sales or data – he is a performer and songwriter, pure and simple, and there are more than several tracks on Wasteland, Baby! that unequivocally emphasise this.
As for these shows, Cork is sold out, while the Belfast date is part of Belsonic Festival. His next Irish gig is at Electric Picnic, August 30th-September 1st. And after that? The US section of the tour concludes in late November with a string of shows in New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom, so don’t be too surprised if further Irish dates are announced for December.