After what can only be called a true breakout career moment Hozier quickly became a household name in early 2015 as “Take Me to Church” off his self titled debut dominated the charts and the airwaves. The singles to follow, “Someone New” and “Jackie and Wilson” further cemented his place within in the genre as Hozier toured heavily on the material – and then as quickly as he burst onto the scene he was gone it seemed leaving us with the burning question of when we would get more from Ireland’s finest musical export this century. The answer turned out to be 2018 as Hozier silently announced a headlining tour that quickly sold out as the new single “Nina Cried Power” began to dominate alternative radio.
By the time the full EP was released on September 6 the Philadelphia show at the Fillmore had already out – flash forward to the show day and that same eagerness could be seen as a long line of fans snaked around the venue hours before doors were set to open. In the years between Hozier’s return to Philadelphia the alternative genre had shifted greatly yet Hozier’s music remained as relevant as ever as more music listeners became more drawn to lyrical content with true depth to it.
The revival of the “blues” sound has also been a rising theme and there uis no question that Hozier embodies this iconic American sound better than anyone else trying to capture the sounds of B.B King or Booker T. Jones. As the house lights went dark and Hozier strolled onto the stage with his guitar there was an energy that captivated the crowd as he started the night slowly before diving into it full force with a riveting rendition of “Like Real People Do.” To his left and right Hozier was flanked with incredible talent that shown bright all night but every moment he opted to dig in a little deeper on a guitar part you were quickly reminded that his talent knew no bounds.
The American protest era inspired “Nina Cried Power” was just the second song Hozier performed for Philadelphia as he set his guitar down to walk around the stage as he pulled his wired microphone and it’s stand a long with him as he gave a performance that would have even given the song’s guest artist Mavis Staples chills. As the evening played out Hozier reminded his fans why they were drawn to him in the first place as he transformed numerous songs off his debut album into soul-filled masterworks that flooded the venue with sound. Every so often Hozier would step away from his towering center stage microphone as we walked around with guitar in hand to perform a solo as light cascaded around him from the stage onto the crowd.
Hozier shined as the crowd belted a sing a long on his massive hit “Take Me to Church” and as they sang softly on the slower sections of “From Eden.” However, the best parts of the set came as Hozier looked towards what is coming next whether with the new songs from his EP or the creative versatility he brought to a cover of “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child during the encore. The set was full of emotion but no moments were stronger than when given the chance to perform the newer songs. Visually Hozier was much looser on these tracks as he dug into deep solos or even walked with guitar at his side as he took in the moment with a smile on his face.
“Nina Cried Power” was the tease, The EP became the preview and the concert became the hype man for the next chapter of Hozier. It’s going to be raw, emotional and bittersweet as it should be but most importantly it is going to likely be a contender for album of the year for the genre. No one could have predicted it would be an Irishman who would become the savior of the American blues sound and there is little question that the months ahead will further cement Hozier as one of the greatest blues singers of all time.