As had been predicted by most with a pulse immediately following the release of his seminal hit, “Take Me to Church”, the rocking Irish-born heartthrob has, indeed, become a worldwide sensation. Strings of sold-out headlining shows on an international level permeate throughout Hozier’s increasingly expansive portfolio, though as a “new” artist on the field, the question is always begged to come up: “Is he any good as a live act?” Unquestionably, there are more artists on a mainstream level who lack the same power that they are able to produce in the studio when compared to their stage performance. Gyrating hips and flashy lights won’t ever make a bro country party jam good just like a major music festival won’t make it so that certain rappers could ever actually sing. Though that’s more of a case of making the bad worse, there could be something to be said for the droves of those who do make good music, yet can’t even hold a note when performing live, let alone put on a show.
So, entering Hozier, the question of his credibility as a stage act is a strong subject to place under a steaming spotlight. Born as a blues-laden prodigy and melded by a mega-hit into sudden stardom, the man could easily have become more of a one-hit wonder than an up-and-comer should he have ever proven his strengths can only last behind a well-endowed producer’s resume. Henceforth, it can be conjectured that his Live in America EP is developed not only as a stipend for his new-fangled slew of rabid fans to devour, but as a means to an end towards answering something actually pertinent for a man that, by all means, has proven that he has what it takes to develop interesting songs with meaningful lyrics. With that being something that the vast majority of the pop radio charts worldwide sorely lack, it would be nothing short of a god-given miracle if an artist like Hozier could also prove himself on the actual stage, in front of thousands.
The EP, as a result, takes a recording in front of those thousands, and digitally broadcasts it before those potential millions of people who had fallen under the spell of “Take Me to Church” and “Someone New” for the first time over the last couple of years. Both tracks, each of which remain his two respective major hits to this day, are of course present on the EP, and on each, Hozier handles himself amicably as a performer to be respected. Even this reviewer, who had fallen in love rather swiftly with his self-titled LP debut upon its release, had remained skeptical—with vocals as complexly cavernous and earthy like Hozier’s, it could’ve easily gone the other way live—but had dashed those silly fears away within the opening moments of “Like Real People Do”. The first of six tracks set to grace the ears of the EP’s listeners, Hozier and his band feed from off of their massive crowd well, even on as gracefully contemplative a composition as it is for a show opener.
Though there’s a short moment during the opening of the set that it’s abundantly clear that there is some nervousness for the lad to be performing in such a venue—for an American audience, at that—he does well to shake those jitters away shortly thereafter and put on a show. The only real takeaway from a stronger score here remains in the quality of the recordings. Keep in mind that you are not receiving live records from inside of a studio, radio station, or some small venue; these are from one of the several major locations across America which Hozier has performed across thus far. Thusly, they aren’t the perfect mix, since such a capacious venue has to be taken into consideration. Take it for what it is as a live emulation of a massive concert, and the hype would typically bring what it lacks in sound up to snuff.
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