It’s truly wild to think that Hozier’s big Philly gig headlining the 14,000-capacity Mann Center — a concert four months away, with an album release between now and then — is already sold out. Excitement for the Irish singer-songwriter’s new music is feverish, and he warmed up for his latest chapter with the second in a series of intimate pop-up concerts around the country last night at World Cafe Live.
Opening the show with the stirring, meditative “Like Real People Do” from his 2014 self-titled debut, Hozier told a crowd that this Philly stage was one of the first he ever played on in North America — at NON-COMM that May, to be exact — and he remembered playing that song at the show. From there, the setlist took us on a tour of cuts old and new. The title track to his latest EP Eat Your Young strutted to a pensive groove; “From Eden” was a soaring singalong; the Greek mythology-themed “Swan Upon Leda” was atmospheric and gorgeous; “Jackie And Wilson” had an uplifting energy.
In the mix of it all, Hozier was warm and personable as ever, giving numerous shoutouts to WXPN, bringing a fan named Aaron onstage to shred with him on “Cherry Wine,” and heaping praise upon his new and expanded band. Made up largely of Nashville players, with some from New York and Dublin, the pop-up tour was in part a way to get them acclimated to the show, and to introduce them to fans. On the World Cafe Live stage last night, we saw and heard Kellen Wenrich on violin, guitar and vocals; Ryan Conner on conga, organ, and keys; Joy Morales on keys, vocals, and percussion; Larissa Maestro on cello, guitar, and vocals; Melissa McMillan on vocals and percussion; and Christa Rogers on vocals, synth, and percussion. The band was rounded out by Hozier’s long-time collaborators Rory Doyle on drums and multi-instrumentalist Alex Ryan acting as musical director, both longtime friends from Dublin and County Kerry respectively. They were a lot of people in total, doing a lot of things onstage, and they sounded appropriately massive without being cluttered. Everything was in its place, and it shook the room.
Below, check out photos from the concert, beginning with a performance from Philly singer-songwriter and rising star Julia Pratt, who appears at XPoNential Music Festival later this year.