The first four rows of the crowd in this makeshift, mirrored, wooden space – one of the smaller Great Escape venues – are female and every one of them thinks Hozier (Andrew Hozier-Byrne) is singing to them. That he not only wants them, but ‘needs’ them. The thing is that Hozier sings openly and honestly about romance and isn’t afraid of being vulnerable.
Hozier is part of the new wave of Irish talent and his spiritual blues-soul is tied to ancient and modern Celtic tradition – but is articulated in a unique way. His voice is, like all great singers, instantly recognisable.
His live act is not yet the finished article – it can be a little rough around the edges and the timings fractionally off. But this young man has got time aplenty and, anyway, what does that matter when he’s released the best tune of the last 12 months in ‘Take Me To Church’.
The female cellist and keyboard player double up on BVs while centre stage Hozier fingerpicks his electric guitar and works through the set. ‘To Be Alone’ – taken from the latest EP ‘From Eden’ – with its opening line, “Never feel too good in crowds/With folks around” is an atmospheric blues howler and ‘Work Song’ is a clap-along joyful incantation. The cover version of Amerie’s ‘1 Thing’ surprises the crowd and mainly works, but the fast-paced falsetto chorus is a bit of a vocal strain.
This is his first real festival with the current tine-up and kicks off a short US tour (you can’t help but feel they’ll love him there), followed by a European jaunt.
There are only about 100 odd souls here – but if Hozier isn’t a household name by the end of the year, then the world’s gone mad – and romance is dead.
List to Take Me To Church here: