The lights go down, cheers soar and a figure enters the stage, handles a guitar with confident intent and begins to croon the atmospheric Like Real People Do into the dimly lit, expectant room; like a seasoned bluesman twice his age, Hozier holds the audience captive from the moment he walks on stage.
Playing at the beautiful, if slightly cavernous, St David’s Hall I was curious to see just how the soulful blues of Ireland’s hottest export would translate in the National Concert Hall of Wales. A venue more renowned for its classical performances than its popular music scene, the experience could have been underwhelming to say the least.
Luckily for the two thousand-odd audience members the show was lightyears away from anything resembling mediocrity. Song number two – the fantastic Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene – saw things kicked up a gear as the gig’s momentum started to build, and an air of foot-stomping, thigh-slapping abandon permeated the crowd. Seemingly wanting to avoid basking in the audience’s still, silent adulation Hozier politely requested that people take their seat reservations as guidance more than obligation, displaying a remarkable lack of conceit for one thrust pretty sharply into stardom. Cardiff certainly didn’t take long to get on its feet and was, as you’d expect, on fine form and in full Welsh voice.
The music, while impressive on record, really took on its own lease of life in a live setting; this was particularly true of duet In a Week. Perhaps a little dour on record – dare I say it, the track to skip even – live it was touching and hauntingly beautiful. Fact for you, fact fans: Karen Cowley, who features on the song, makes up one third of girl-band support act Wyvern Lingo. They certainly weren’t what I was expecting of Hozier’s support act, but they were a pleasant surprise and worth a listen if you get the chance.
Highlights were definitely Jackie and Wilson, Someone New, Work Song, and a rather poignant tribute to the late David Bowie in the form of a Young Americans cover. Overall the gig was fantastic, Hozier’s live show only proves further his obvious talents as a songwriter-performer. No doubt his second album will be highly anticipated and, with performances like this one under his belt, gig tickets will continue to be hot property. Perhaps one of the most exciting and refreshing talents to emerge in recent years – one to watch.