For a man who began his year cloaked in relative obscurity, Hozier is closing out 2014 with a serious list of accomplishments folded and checked off in his pocket. Crowds clamored for him at festivals, from SXSW to Sasquatch! to Glastonbury to Reading & Leeds. The biggest pop stars on the planet have covered "Take Me To Church," his resounding wallop of a debut single. He stunned on Saturday Night Live with "Take Me To Church" in tow and "Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene," the smirking, soulful foot-stomper that caused the viewing public to do a double-take.
He followed that up with a nearly sold-out headlining tour stateside for the first time, and achieved the unthinkable when he sold out his 2015 tour before concluding that jaunt. Still, one question remains after Hozier's sudden and soaring climb: How did all of this happen so quickly? Wasn't this Delta Blues-beltin' guy from Ireland? Where the hell did he learn to sing like that? Who was this man who seemingly appeared out of nowhere with these incredible songs?
The music struck a resounding chord, that's how. Details and insatiable curiosity aside, Hozier concluded his last American tour of 2014 with a show that capitalized on all of this momentum and gusto, leading us to believe that 2015 will put the meteoric year of his big break to shame. His record's only been out a month, and yet the sold-out crowd at New York City's Irving Plaza was chanting the words of assorted album cuts back to him with the fervor of a fan base that's known him for years.
From the flirtatious overtones of "Jackie and Wilson" and "Someone New" to the somber, eerie sentiments of "In A Week," Hozier was able to quiet the din of a drunk and celebratory mass before him with his flawless delivery and hypnotizing, velvet vocals. The clarity of his poetry wasn't lost on the room, with "Cherry Wine" and "It Will Come Back" striking particularly poignant notes between heavy-hitting verses.
A couple of covers were thrown into the mix, namely Skip James' "Illinois Blues" and Amerie's "1 Thing," and his enthusiasm for both matched the delight he'd previously reserved for his own material. "Take Me To Church" brought the house down with the majority of the audience reaching skyward in hopes of grasping a "Hallelujah!," and every single person present left Irving Plaza preaching the gospel according to Hozier.
While Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran and other singer-songwriters from across the pond continue to snatch accolades for their heartfelt lyrics, approachable personalities and attractive accents, Hozier sets himself apart from his chart-topping peers as a talent to watch with veritable rock and blues chops behind him. At 24, Hozier has the world and its earbuds at his fingertips, and it's refreshing to see someone not only make it but enjoy the ride of a first, fantastic year of a (hopefully) long and lucrative career.