Dan DeSlover

It’s been nearly five years since Hozier blew up the charts with “Take Me To Church.” The Irish singer-songwriter is currently touring in support of his highly anticipated sophomore release Wasteland, Baby!, with a run of sold-out dates through North America.

His stop at The Sylvee in Madison, Wisconsin, on Saturday night demonstrated Andrew Hozier-Byrne’s vocal range and bluesy fretwork. Joined by a seven-piece backing band, they delicately worked through music from Hozier’s two albums during the 90-minute set.

The country-tinged acoustic “Would That I” offered a strong foundation to Hozier’s powerful vocal delivery to begin the evening with a trio of songs from his latest effort. Andrew switched to an electric guitar for the upbeat “Dinner & Diatribes” and roamed the stage sans guitar for the emotional “Nina Cried Power.”

Hozier's oft-delicate voice eerily contrasts against morbid subject matter, enhanced by his dark and gritty fretwork; each song providing a glimpse into his psyche. One example was the haunting “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene,” that somehow gets the body moving with uplifting backing vocals against a somber organ.

Then there were the sing-alongs from both albums, led by “Almost (Sweet Music)” and “Jackie and Wilson,” but none so strong as the show’s finale “Take Me To Church,” where the capacity crowd easily drowned out Hozier and band. A three song encore that began with pristine and low-keyed “Cherry Wine” that segued into pop-worthy “To Noise Making (Sing)” before settling back down to close the evening with “Work Song." 

Hozier’s music offers a wide range of texture and styles, yet they all played out beautifully in a live setting without the need for gadgetry and vocal gimmicks. Andrew fully puts himself on the stage and completely delivered.