Hozier Earns His Hype at The Showbox

Hozier performs to a sold out Showbox in Seattle. Photo by John Lill

Hozier performs to a sold out Showbox in Seattle. Photo by John Lill

It would be so easy, so tempting  . . . .dare this reviewer start off by saying that “Hozier took the Showbox to church on Tuesday night”?

This reviewer will refrain. But aside from it being ready-made to be a groan-worthy pun, Andrew Hozier-Byrne’s music can be downright revival-ready, with its gospel blues feel.

Backed by a cellist, drummer, keyboardist, bass player and two backing singers from Nashville, the Irish singer-songwriter earned his recent U.S. hype. Welcomed by screams and applause from a sold-out crowd who already seem to have his debut album memorized, Hozier’s show showed off his range, from gentle acoustic ballads like “Cherry Wine,” to the rollicking “Someone New,” with its fun, sunny chorus.

But his music’s heart is its bluesy soul. “Take Me To Church” and “To Be Alone” showcased this, as well as a cover of Skip James’ “Illinois Blues” (speaking of covers, a fun cover of Amerie’s 2005 hit “1 Thing” led off the encore, and worked surprisingly well as a straight-forward rock track).

Aside from the anticipated mass sing-along of the hit “Take Me To Church,” the show’s high point was one of its quietest moments. Cellist and singer Alana Henderson (herself a songwriter from County Tyrone in Northern Ireland) joined Hozier for the quiet and lovely “In a Week.” The song might not have been out of place as a traditional Irish ballad, with its gentle melody and morbid beauty – the song is about two lovers lying together in the Wicklow hills and basically becoming fodder for nature.

For the eager crowd at The Showbox, seeing Hozier’s Seattle debut was exciting, seeing him on the cusp of what appears to be huge success in this country. Before his album came out in early October, not only had the Showbox show sold out, but he had already been booked at the Paramount for February. It’s refreshing to see such musical hype so well-deserved.

English singer-songwriter James Bay opened the show, his gravelly voice and baby-faced looks garnering much appreciation from women in the crowd. Backed by a keyboardist-slash-percussionist, his guitar-based songs stood well on their own. Bay has several EPs in his discography; hopefully there will be a full-length on the way in the near future.

Alicia is a Midwest transplant who loves Seattle but misses thunderstorms. Her musical obsessions began when her coolest aunt gave her a copy of K-Tel’s Rock 80 album for Christmas when she was 7. She spent many years studying piano and voice, but the force of rock and roll won, so while she still sings in a local chorale, her true musical passions lie more with The Beatles than with Beethoven. When she’s not working at her job in HR, she can be found singing bad pop songs at the top of her lungs … although sometimes she does that