Review by Chloe Gynne

A Hozier review – for a concert, album, whatever – can be boiled down to two simple words. That voice.

That voice fills the Palladium on a Saturday night, and makes a bunch of pop fans listen to the blues for two hours. That voice has sold this venue out for five consecutive nights. That voice elicits tears, chills, screams of joy, from the top tier seats to the front row stalls.

Hozier_Edward_Cooke_1

Photo Credit: Edward Cooke

Tonight, Hozier and his seven-piece band bring layers of melody to songs from 2019 album Wasteland, Baby! With the band, Nina Cried Power is the protest song it should be: loud, proud and furious, a cry to wake up and listen.

He’s able to turn difficult emotions like anger and upset into catharsis, and it’s evident throughout the evening; he follows a bleak, impassioned call to action about climate change with charming wit – “don’t worry- it’s all about to get much, much worse,” he jokes – and encourages a soft singalong to Cherry Wine, a song about domestic violence that will undoubtedly touch many in the audience.

To the crowd’s adulation, he takes a Pride flag he is given and drapes it over the stage, and has done similar things with lesbian and trans pride flags over recent shows. There’s a warmth and inclusion here that doesn’t go amiss with the crowd.

But the sheer size of this crowd sometimes diminishes the simplistic beauty of some of his earlier songs. To Be Alone, in which Hozier rouses the crowd for a bit of call-and-response singing, feels like it needs to be listened to in a 20-capacity, smoky blues club, not the home of the Royal Variety Performance.

Likewise, a huge screen fills the stage, highly effective when it shows clips from worldwide protests that match the outrage of Hozier’s recent music. But at times, it’s a distraction; lyric videos pump out, shrinking the spectacle, and the royal circle find themselves following the graphics rather than the beat. Perhaps, when the hype for this album has died down a little, Hozier may value reflecting on why he’s here in the first place – because audiences have actively responded to a mainstream artist who does not rely on trend or gimmick.

Musically, though, he is faultless – something he says sarcastically near the end of the night, but is true. He rips through the riff of Dinner and Diatribes like it’s nothing; sings Shrike effortlessly. He capitalises on his confidence and treats us to two brand new songs, including one about police brutality. He asks the audience not to record, worried he’ll mess them up before they’re even at demo stage. He needn’t worry. They could easily be setlist mainstays in the next year.

Closing with Work Song, Hozier thanks everyone involved with the show, even down to those working the merch stand, before drinking whisky in cheers to the crowd. He shouldn’t be so surprised that the night has been so good; with that voice, very little can go wrong.

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