Hozier @ O2 Academy, Glasgow, 7 Dec
Hozier's soulful Irish-born folk demonstrates a strong Celtic connection at Glasgow's O2 Academy
Despite being a 2,500 capacity venue, Glasgow's O2 Academy provides an intimate setting for Hozier and his transatlantic band, with support from American roots artist Susan Santos. Santos takes to the stage dressed in an ethereal floor-length black dress and wide-brimmed hat, like a Southern Stevie Nicks. Her band gathers around her, casually arranged across the stage as though they were in rehearsal or happened to be there by chance.
Santos and her band appear dwarfed by the enormity of the venue, which is set for Hozier’s full ensemble, but their sound is not diminished as Santos’ voice echoes and flourishes throughout the auditorium. Humbled by the audience's reception, Santos goes on to deliver a set of cut-throat country folk, complete with virtuosic violin solos and sliding guitar sounds that conjure up the old American West and its vast landscape, with percussive rattlesnake and thunderous kick drum effects.
The stage is lit against a theatrical backdrop of hanging drapes, evoking the set of Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance. The lights flicker and dim as the dark silhouettes of the band – which Santos is also part of – take their places. The crowd erupts as the unmistakeable figure of Andrew Hozier-Byre, aka Hozier, emerges from behind the curtain and begins tentatively with Like Real People Do. His backing singers frame his soulful voice beautifully; their harmonies reaching for the rafters before settling on the ears of the listener.
Hozier performs tracks from his latest EP, including eponymous single Nina Cried Power, wielding his guitar above his head in a symbolic gesture. There is a free-form quality to his set as he adapts songs to encourage the audience to sing along. They respond by threatening to drown out the voices on stage during tracks such as To Be Alone. There is a strong Celtic connection between Hozier’s soulful Irish-born folk and the Scottish audience. He shifts seamlessly between an emotive solo acoustic performance of Cherry Wine and Flower of Scotland, as he tells the audience that within a matter of seconds he knew that “it’s true what they say, there’s no crowd quite like a Glasgow crowd.”