wed 22/05/2024

Hozier, OVO Hydro, Glasgow review - sublime voice and a super-sized sound | reviews, news & interviews

Hozier, OVO Hydro, Glasgow review - sublime voice and a super-sized sound

Hozier, OVO Hydro, Glasgow review - sublime voice and a super-sized sound

The Irish singer was enjoyable, but occasionally submerged under his own songs.

Hozier in a reflective mood

There was something misleading about the opening of this concert. As Andrew John Hozier-Byrne and his band stepped onstage, the stage was lit up by a single spotlight, focused around the microphone that the singer stepped up to. Yet the following two hours were anything but a one-man band, with the collective of musicians assembled behind him given ample room to shine, to mostly positive but occasionally negative effect.

That arrival was greeted rapturously by the Glasgow crowd, who had already responded warmly to support act the Last Dinner Party and then entertained themselves by singing along to some of the tunes blaring out over the PA. For a Monday night this was an up for it crowd, and even the mellow, folksy opening of “De Selby (Part 1)” didn’t cool the atmosphere, or stop the tidal wave of phones that appeared to capture the man himself.

The following “De Selby (Part 2)” was a much brawnier affair, more directly suited to the arenas the 33-year-old is accustomed to now, but the whole set danced idiosyncratically, from acoustic led contemplation to heads down rockers and skittish pop. It was often enjoyable, though at times the tonal shifts tripped the set’s momentum up.

However there were a number of strong moments, starting with Hozier’s voice itself. It is in itself a terrific instrument, capable of switching from airy playfulness on the pure pop of “First Time” to the fire and brimstone fury that lashed down on a mighty “Take Me to Church” that capped off the regular set. Here was a political statement being made in emphatic, thrilling fashion, something that eluded the encore’s well-meaning but beige bland “Nina’s Got Power”, even though it was preceded by a plea for a ceasefire in Gaza.

At other times he called to mind some of the greats, from Paul Simon to Peter Gabriel, thanks to the eight-piece backing band behind him. Together they could create a stirring sound and when given a groove to pursue the set flowed jubilantly, notably on the handclap fuelled gospel tinge of “Movement” and the dreamy rhythms of “Abstract (Psychopomp)”, a stand out from his most recent album, “Unreal Unearth”. This was aided by impressive stage design and lighting, including some fake trees lowered from the ceiling. When they glittered, it felt like Christmas trees had gone rogue.

Despite that, the sheer numbers of the band, all of whom were chipping in with backing vocals as well as instruments, sometimes came over too forcefully. If “Dinner and Diatribes” benefitted from totemic drumming by Rory Doyle then a thrashy “Francesca” hit out aimlessly, and a swelling version of “First Light” sought out a vast sound so much that it just felt rather empty.

Ironically, the night’s finest moment came on “Cherry Wine”, which featured just Hozier, his guitar and an enormous amount of vocal support from the audience, suitably illuminated by their phones. It was beautiful in its sheer simplicity, and a reminder of a talent that was occasionally submerged in a vast setting.

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