The 25th of April marks ANZAC day, a time to remember those who bravely fought for the freedom we enjoy today. So after paying my respects at my local RSL service, I made my way to the iconic Palais Theatre to take in the soulful music of Hozier. Thursday night is the first of two sold-out shows in Melbourne, a testament to the huge following that he has amassed since his enormous hit Take Me To Church.
Opening the night’s proceedings was local musician Didirri, who has gone from being a Melbourne street busker three years ago to a full-time musician today. His 30-minute set was definitely not long enough, his onstage charm and beautifully written songs wowed the audience, he held them in the palm of his hand over the duration of his stage time. Didirri delivered black comedy as good as anyone who just performed at the Comedy Festival, add to that his rich voice and luscious locks and he really is the whole package. While he may have been just a guy and his guitar, he didn’t require anything more, captivating from his opening note Dirirri is one to check out sooner rather than later with all of his music available from the usual streaming outlets. I guarantee you will be keeping his soothing tunes on high rotation.
Talking about luscious locks, it was time for the main event and the man of the moment, Hozier. With a sell-out night one, the Palais was packed to the brim and calling the fans vocal would be the understatement of the year. The screaming was deafening as he and his band took to the stage, opening with the captivating Would That I. Dinner & Diatribes was next, followed by Nina Cried Power, which had quite a gospel feel to it. The extensive band were multi-instrumentalists and their singing complimented Hozier perfectly. It was then that Hozier suggested to the audience that the wooden things they were sitting on were “just a suggestion” and with that, the floor arose as one and happily stayed that way for the duration of the show.
With guitar changes a plenty, Hozier powered through his set including Someone New, which had the fans, myself included grooving like no one was watching. Nobody and From Eden slotted in nicely and Wasteland, Baby! saw Hozier take to the stage solo, just a perfectly placed light and his acoustic guitar. The addition of light poles at the rear of the stage projected well, along with a myriad of smoke machines which added depth to the performance. The band brought along their clapping hands and were not afraid to use them! They had us clapping on autopilot by nights end, even serving us up some pretty tricky rhythm changes which did have a few of the audience stumped with random claps ringing out from time to time, for future reference, never clap on one and three!
The light poles worked intricately with the bass drum and the impact was sensational from my vantage point. All the musicians and singers were brilliant, talented artists keeping the show running like clockwork and sounding sensational. The rear screen projected huge windows which changed colours over the course of the evening, something so simple, yet so powerful, as No Plan, To Be Alone and Almost (Sweet Music) played out. Movement saw the most magical of lighting play out with ribbons of white flooding the theatre and smoke billowing across the stage it was like a wonderland and quite stunning for the spellbound fans.
The song that needed no introduction was, of course, Take Me To Church, Hozier’s vocals sublime as we swayed in time, feeling like part of a congregation. He preached his music and we were the worthiest of receivers, hanging on every word. Leaving us hungry for more I was saddened as goodbyes were said, but we stomped and clapped hopeful of just a few more. The screams reached fever pitch as Hozier returned to the stage solo, delivering the most beautiful of songs, Cherry Wine, the fans singing so loud it sent tingles up the spine of even the most hardened. Once again just his guitar and a spotlight, stunningly sung and a highlight of the evening.
The band returned to the stage to play out the night with Work Song, the clapping was regimented but perfect, the singing taking it to celestial heights, the fans so invested some even welling up from the sheer loveliness. An exceptional choice to close out a most magnificent night.
Hozier’s music was food for the soul and the evening left me feeling like I just finished a delicious banquet, completely content and satisfied. A must see show of the highest order, you will laugh, sing and cry and you will love every minute!
Review Contributed by Cassandra Hale