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Concert Reviews:
Hozier's Celtic soul is a winner at the Royal Oak

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Sunday, March 1, 2015

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ROYAL OAK -- It's fair to say Hozier gave it his all on Saturday night, Feb. 28, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre.

A headliner by dint of one self-titled album -- and really by one song, the Grammy Award-nominated single "Take Me To Church" -- the bulk of the soulful Irish singer-songwriter's 17-song, 90-minute set showcased the entirety of that debut disc, bolstered by a couple of tracks from its deluxe edition and some well-chosen covers. But while other one-album headliners (most recently the Grammy-gobbling Sam Smith) don't quite have a diverse enough catalog to sustain that long of a show, Hozier showed on Saturday that he has plenty of range to pull it off.

Playing before a packed, all-ages crowd -- with a significant number of families (parents in the back, kids down front in the non-mosh pit) and one couple whose marriage proposal Hozier hosted before the final encore -- Andrew Hozier-Byrne and his facile six-piece band started strong, with a triplet of "Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene," "From Eden" and "Jackie and Wilson," each of which were faithful to their recorded versions but sounded more muscular on stage. The 24-year-old Hozier is hardly a live-wire performer, but he tapped into a distinctive kind of charisma with his vocal nuances, blending Celtic folk, Delta blues and urban American R&B into its own kind of instrument.

And it doesn't hurt that, with his work shirt and hair tied in the back, he strikes a good hippy/street figure with his guitar.

Hozier's choice of covers -- a solo acoustic rendering of Skip James' "Illinois Blues" and a hard-hitting arrangement of hip-hop/soul singer Amerie's "1 Thing" -- also illustrated where he comes from, musically, and that synthesis was on display throughout the night in performances of "Someone New," "It Will Come Back," "Sedated," "Foreigner's God" and "Run" -- all strong though it would have been nice to hear Hozier and company expand and extend them a bit. He and cellist Alana Henderson delivered a folky duet version of "In a Week," though "Take Me to Church," obviously the song everyone was waiting for, came off as surprisingly perfunctory, as if Hozier is making a conscious attempt to move past it and on to the rest of his catalog.

Saturday's concert proved he has the goods to do that -- something the exuberant Royal Oak crowd seemed to know already. And you can be they'll be spreading the word as he prepares for a return visit on July 29 to the Meadow Brook Music Festival (visit www.palacenet.com for details).

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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