- 11 Dec 19
2019 has been a powerful year for Hozier. But even on his triumphant return to Dublin, he is plotting the next step forward in style. 2020, here we come!
Before a packed house at 3Arena, Dublin, Hozier makes a dramatic entrance. It is the stuff of incipient superstar legend.
To the pounding drums that open the anthemic ‘Nina Cried Power’, Andrew Hozier-Byrne emerges. At first, he is partially obscured by a blank, see-through curtain, onto which powerful imagery of world protests are projected: then, the sheet falls and the song explodes into its choral rallying cry. And here stands the Bray man in all his statuesque glory – singing his heart out as guitars wail.
It’s a confident intro, and Hozier has every right to it. After all, 2019 saw him achieve his first U.S. No.1 with Wasteland, Baby!, earn rave reviews for various open-air summer shows back home and play five nights at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom. If anything, his 3Arena gig – his first at the venue, believe it or not – is the perfect climax to the singer-songwriter’s banner year. That said, even within its victory lap are sprinkled teasers of what’s likely to come next.
But first! The support act, Freya Ridings, has a winsome charm. She sings from an elevated podium, parked in the middle of the auditorium. The positioning of this mini-stage adds extra intimacy to her already gorgeously naked, stripped-back ballads her tremulous voice accompanied only by her own piano backing. Closing song ‘Lost Without You’ is a beauty.
From Freya to Nina: support act applauded and his opening blitz done, Hozier and his seven-piece band power into the Celtic-sounding guitars of ‘Dinner and Diatribes’. The pyrotechnics hit the mark, with flames rising vertically from the front of the stage – a fitting foil to the track, which shifts between anger and romance.
Two songs in, Hozier tells his audience what an ‘immeasurable pleasure’ it is to be here. And so it must be. The opening bars to every track – most notably the singles from his eponymous debut album, ‘Jackie and Wilson’, ‘Someone New’ and pre-encore closer ‘Take Me to Church’ – are greeted gleefully, with fans singing along like with great gusto.
Throughout the show the visuals are consistently arresting, and perfectly in keeping with the accompanying songs: slow disco ball lighting for the sensual ‘Movement’; neon reds and wisps of smoke on the dangerously sexy ‘Angel of Small Death’.
Halfway through the set, Hozier vacates the stage for the podium. There, he performs the beautiful, more acoustic, triptych of ‘From Eden’, ‘Wasteland, Baby!’ and ‘Cherry Wine’, the former played as autumnal leaves gently rain from the ceiling. It is a bitter-sweet moment.
Back on the main stage, Hozier unveils the Woody Guthrie-inspired protest folk song ‘Jackboot Jump’, before giving us a taster of another unreleased track. Titled ‘But the Wages’ it uses the rising tensions in the world today as a jumping off point: musically, what starts out as an infectious jazzy piano number performs a pirouette to become a full-band, pop banger. By adroitly juxtaposing the darkness of its lyrics with a light accessible sound, it already feels like an anthem for the new decade.
With the promise of more new tunes on the way in 2020, it looks like it could be another rocking year. Make no mistake: for Hozier right now, the only way is up.