You know the song, the voice, the ceremonial haunting blues; such is Hozier. 2,200 people gathered at The Fillmore on Thursday night to stand in eager liturgy. Irish born Andrew Hozier-Byrne, son of a blues musician, took Charlotte captive under a veil of smoke and lights; his voice piercing through the noise of his congregation. Not a word to speak, Andrew steps right up to the mic as if he plays The Fillmore regularly. From behind his wavy locks he sings, confidently grinning. Does he know anyone is in front of him at all? His fingers dance around the strings of his guitar swiftly and surely, his accuracy akin to three lifetimes of practice. Flawless sound from the entire arrangement makes it seem as if each band member is connected; somehow one in the same.
The black backdrop reads Hozier in the font from the self-titled debut album, as if he needs an introduction, setting the stage for light play to the beat of “Jackie and Wilson.” When he’s not confessing through song his tracks seem to play like the soundtrack of a memorable childhood afternoon. People begin to sway, careless and unguarded. Each time the drummer counts a beat a strobe of lights awakens the crowd. The effect is striking; an experience bringing the songs to another level. Many artists hide behind production, a stage full of instruments, fireworks. Andrew Hozier-Byrne needs only the beat behind him, resulting in a sensual yet spiritual experience. This signature mix takes the listener through many parts of the soul, all while stimulating the brain with lyrics that speak to the “core of commonality.” Hozier is comprised of many layers beyond that still. Backup singers throw songs back to a time that music has nearly forgotten. His father’s influence is heavily apparent in the sound. The combination is almost unfair: brilliant writer, square jawline, and that sound.
Breaking the melodic stride after a few songs Byrne addresses The Fillmore. “Hello Charlotte! Very, very good to see you,” he smiles, a slight ring curling up around the edges of his words. Even when he speaks it sounds like music. After admitting that his track “Someone New” was born from a broken relationship, the tune that follows is almost playful in sound. The company of empathetic fans sing along, accompanying his backup singers. Rays of light reach out and touch the faces of those leaving their past in the words of the tall, handsome musician. Watching them put down their history, that pain, to witness it begs a giggle of the adolescent spirit buried in all of us.
Of course, there is only so much time in a show. The masses sing out the words for “Take Me to Church” and it’s just like being in the car, only with a full band in the back seat. If the lucky ticket holders of the sold-out show had come to hear only this, the message they were being exposed to turned out to be so much more. Hozier is deeper than their beautifully composed popular radio hit. Irish folk-inspired hymnal blues vocally arresting of its listener, Hozier seduces the ear and mind together, then leaves you wanting so much more.
Andrew and band exit the stage after the lights drop out at the end of the song. The only word to describe this moment is “irresistible.” Each person standing under the chandlers of The Fillmore felt the need for more. Of course there had to be more. The noisy addicts cheer and beg for an encore. Only a short time passes before the cleric musicians emerge from the darkness. Again addressing their mark, they play fan favorites “Cherry Wine” and “Run.” Edison lightbulbs light the stage on plumber pole stands and the captivating show is complete. But then a curveball: admitting that they only play this R&B tune at fun shows, the band starts playing the 2005 Amerie release “1 Thing.” One might think there would be a divide amongst the age rage diversity, but the crowd embraces the cover. A perfect end to a satisfying experience. Ending with an arm-locking bow, the mob is sent out into the night with the sentiment of a fresh memory.