REVIEW: Hozier at Cambridge Corn Exchange - long stemmed roses were thrown onto the stage

PUBLISHED: 11:18 30 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:24 02 October 2019

Hozier on stage. Picture: CELIA BARTLETT

Hozier on stage. Picture: CELIA BARTLETT

Copyright © 2019 Celia Bartlett Photography. All rights reserved.

With the stage bathed in red light, the statuesque 6ft 5 figure of Hozier arrived alone and began with the moody As it Was, a song about returning.

Hozier. Picture: CELIA BARTLETTHozier. Picture: CELIA BARTLETT

Gradually, his band joined him on stage and followed on with a lighter Would That I with the uplifting and catchy chorus which got the audience joining in with the ohh-ohh-o-o-oh's. The first of the long-stem roses were thrown onto the stage by adoring fans.

After bursting into the music charts with the multi-platinum single, Take me to Church in 2013, Andrew Hozier-Byrne, or Hozier as he is known, has built a huge following, a fact backed up by the current sell-out Wasteland, Baby tour.

Playing nine venues around the UK before finishing up with five nights at The Palladium in London this week, Cambridge was his penultimate regional date.

Having already toured the States, Australia and Europe this year, he will be off to the States again in October, as this is the tour to support this second studio album, released in March.

David Keenan on stage in Cambridge. Picture: CELIA BARTLETTDavid Keenan on stage in Cambridge. Picture: CELIA BARTLETT

Dinner and Diatribes followed to raise the levels and tempo ready for Nina Cried Power which was released as a successful EP in the autumn of 2018.

Hozier is well known for his willingness to speak out about injustices, and show support and understanding for artists, such as Nina Simone, who sang political or protest songs. On listening to the album version, one could be forgiven for mistaking the opening bars of this song, with similarities in both the rhythm and the soft voice, as being one from fellow Irish singer/songwiter Paul Noonan.

However, on stage, that comparison vanished as the words drew the listener to recall the spirit of protest.

The voice we have all come to recognise as Hozier shone through as it developed into this powerful song with gospel style backing. After that rousing quartet of songs from the current album, he stopped to make his first interaction with the audience: "It's an honour to be here in beautiful Cambridge..." going on to thank his support act.

Now was the turn for a clutch of songs from the self titled debut album Hozier, including To Be Alone.

Next, prompting more audience participation with the familiar chorus, came Someone New, and Angel.. with its catchy, syncopated clapping, powerful guitar solo and violin getting everyone moving in time.

Introducing Nobody as a "A song from the new record", there was an almost ghostly but angelic-style of singing from the girls on the stage. And how lovely it is to see an appreciation of equality with the number of girls he has in his band.

Talk was followed by another oldie, at which Hozier called out "If you know this song..."

This was an invitiation for the audience to join in Eden for sure, and it brought huge whoops and cheers at the end.

Maybe the almost traditional reserve of a Cambridge crowd was beginning to melt and become warmed up now.

As he swapped to an acoustic guitar, Hozier chatted a little more, his softly spoken words being difficult to hear. The stage lighting became dramatically split into multiple, sharp white, upward beams which silhouetted those on stage and seemed totally appropriate for Shrike.

He began to explain the story to No Plan, his words again difficult to make out, but in these days of awareness, about the fragility of our world. It was understood to be about a study by astrophysicist Katie Mack, stating that there were five most likely ways of the universe coming to an end.

As he sang, he swung his guitar around to his back and pounded his chest with a heartfelt passion. Just as we were getting our heads around this, the song transitioned into a cover of the Stevie Wonder track Living for the City, an unexpected juxtaposition, yet performed with sensitivity.

Another huge cheer followed Jackie and Wilson, a track from the first album, before jumping back to tracks from album 2, Almost (Sweet Music) - which was a great point to showcase each of the band members.

This usually signals that the concert is nearing the end...had the time passed that quickly while immersed in the music from a man with a genuine warmth?

With just Hozier visible in the lights, (which had been notable throughout the concert) he put some power into Movements which was building up the anticipation for something big, and we weren't disappointed as Take Me To Church struck up. He turned his mike to the waving crowd "Let's hear you Cambridge!" A-a-amen!? ...but not quite.

They returned to stage for the encore with the gentle melody of Cherry Wine which may surprise the unsuspecting as it hides a story about abuse, and often becomes a candle moment. Sadly from where I was sitting, I couldn't see if Cambridge joined this tradition too.

Finally, just before Work Song, Hozier thanked each member of the band as well as asking for "A helluva lot of noise for David Keenan".

A special mention has to go to the support, David Keenan, who I first heard at the 2018 Clonakilty Guitar Festival.

A singer-songwirter and poet, this young man from Dundalk, with the looks of a character from Peaky Blinders, is a face to watch. He could soon well be the Cillian Murphy of the music world, and will likely be discovered as such during his own tour starting in Ireland in December.

With just an acoustic guitar, he stood in the spotlight, the faces of the entranced Irish fans in the front row, lit up by the overspill light, After a few songs, his unique sound and performance style was rewarded with a single long-stemmed rose being thrown from the audience. "That's the first time that has ever happened to me - I normally get fag butts thrown at me!"

After a very solid performance which also got the audience joining in, he left stage with his single rose. Soon he will be leaving waving a handful, just as Hozier did. Cambridge had showed the love.

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