When Hozier first released his debut album back in 2014, not many people suspected the hype to bubble up this much. Once Hozier, real name Andrew Hozier-Byrne, put out the smash hit single Take Me to Church, everything just kept getting better and better. Not that you could blame him, though, because Hozier is one of the finest and most serene songwriters this world has seen in a long time. Last night, together with support from Rhodes, Hozier and his 6-piece live band took to a sold out Heineken Music Hall in Amsterdam for a victorious show which essentially celebrated the huge successes the last two years have seen.
Before Hozier could get down to business, though, up-and-coming singer-songwriter Rhodes (full name Daniel Rhodes) took to the stage all by himself for a swift thirty minute set. Having released his debut album Wishes last year, Rhodes performed 7 songs in front of a nearly-packed room. Armed with just a guitar, he opened his set with the soothing Run, before later pulling a stripped-back version of Birdy collaboration Let it All Go out of the bag. “I’m gonna try sing this song without Birdy’s beautiful voice, I hope it goes well” he nervously proclaimed before managing to silence the whole room. Although live he’s all by himself, on record Rhodes is not your conventional singer-songwriter. Performing an extremely stripped-back set, he proved that he’s able to take his songs and lay them bare in front of a huge audience. All Things Loud sat down with Rhodes before his show, the result of which you can read soon.
Thirty minutes later, Hozier took to the stage for a set which lasted just over 70 minutes. Playing a venue as big as the Heineken Music Hall is no easy achievement when you’ve only got one record to your name. Especially if that record also came out two years ago. Accompanied by his live band (which consists of a cellist, a keyboardist, drummer, multi-instrumentalist and two backing vocalists), Hozier kicked off his set with Like Real People Do, one of twelve tracks played from his self-titled debut. As the song built up in terms of instrumental layering, the vibrant stage backdrop slowly but surely lit up and eventually bathed Hozier and his band in an abundance of light. Like Real People Do’s sultry mood and serene acoustics made way for Angel of Small Death & the Codeine Scene, one of the evening’s first big highlights. Here, Hozier demonstrated his varied vocal tone as the percussion gradually built up and gave the song more depth. A soulful chorus, accompanied by handclaps, saw the whole room sing along in unison before fan favourite From Eden followed. “Babe, there’s something lonesome about you” sings Hozier during the first verse, his vocals underpinned by slightly fuzzy guitars and followed by a huge chorus. Like most Hozier songs, the build-up is gradual and leads into a massive sing-a-long chorus.
Between each song, Hozier took out time to tell little stories which helped him connect better with the audience. These stories unfortunately didn’t stop a few groups of Irish fans in singing and chanting whatever came to their minds during quiet moments. Hozier picked up on this at one point, subsequently telling a story which involved his cellist Alana Henderson. The catchy Jackie & Wilson featured early on in the set, its bluesy guitars and soulful vocal tones swirling through the room. A double header of the darker To Be Alone and early highlight Someone New (one of Hozier’s standout tracks) ensured that the set got off to a strong start which was definitely more killer than filler. A cover of The Beatles’ Blackbird made for a mid-set breather, giving Hozier the opportunity to talk a little bit about the cover he was going to play. It Will Come Back’s Western-tinged opening guitars added a slick sense of feeling to proceedings, introducing some groove-based sections. Although quite sparse on record, It Will Come Back’s live rendition is far more powerful. A big part of this is thanks to the visual accompaniment which Hozier’s live show receives from his lighting team. Strobe lights, lasers and scattered onstage lightbulbs formed a huge part of the show, making it less of a gig and more of a show.
The serene In a Week, which featured Alana Henderson joining Hozier on vocals, slowed the pace right down for a few short minutes, giving Henderson the opportunity to show off her soaring voice. Older EP track Arsonist’s Lullaby introduced a pulsating kick drum which added huge suspense during the build-up, with a faint buzzsaw synth underpinning proceedings subtly. “All you have is your fire” sang Hozier, his two female backing vocalists contrasting his tone with some darker long notes. The piano-led Sedated made for a poppier moment in the show, with its lilting piano line and booming percussion adding some grandiose elements to the track. “I keep scratching, but somehow I can’t get in” sang Hozier ahead of the second chorus, one which is absolutely massive. The moment which most people had waited for followed, with Take Me to Church undeniably an absolute scorcher of a track. Its faux-religious lyrics and gritty soul vibe combine nicely with large anthemic moments to produce one of the most popular songs of the last year. It may have been out for nearly two years now, but Take Me to Church still has a massive impact. Leaving the stage swiftly, Hozier and his band returned a few minutes later for a brief encore. The folk-flecked Cherry Wine progressed nicely at a relatively slow pace, almost begging for lighters in the air all around. The whole evening ended on Work Song, which saw the show culminate in a vibrant mixture of everything Hozier does best – anthemic flashes, serene instrumentation and an overall sense of glory and euphoria.
There’s clearly far more to Hozier than just Take Me to Church. He’s certainly come a long way from the position he found himself in 2014, which at one point saw him play Glastonbury’s John Peel Tent early on in the day. In this day and age, standing out is nigh-on impossible. However, Hozier seems to have found a niche which he’s managed to stick to and reap the rewards from.