Photographs by Neil Van.
Two of the most publicized artists of the year James Bay and Hozier hit the Phoenix Concert Theatre Tuesday night, proving their hype was justified.
Singer-songwriter James Bay, the lesser known of the duo, opened the night with an impeccable live performance. A set of warm, heartfelt songs including “Let It Go,” Bay’s current slow burning hit, and “When We Were On Fire,” were center stage as the 22 year old and his lonely companion on keys and percussion captivated the audience. Energetic and soulful, Bay lived up to the buzz that has surrounded the British import.
Headliner Hozier was equal to the task with ample evidence the strong word of mouth that has engulfed the Irish singer in recent months is warranted. Backed by an ensemble including backup singers (a rare sight in contemporary music) and a cellist, Hozier came to put on a show. Opening with “Like Real People Do,” Hozier’s, Irish take on R&B and southern soul was on full display and remained there all night long.
Gritty blues and gospel was in abundance on tracks like, “Angel of Small Death And The Codiene Scene,” “To Be Alone,” and “Someone New.” The enthralling set included a gorgeous, subdued duet with cellist/vocalist Alana Henderson, a momentary departure from his own catalogue. Elsewhere, showcasing his musicology Hozier performed a flawless cover of the relatively unknown Delta blues musician/singer-songwriter Skip James.
Closing out the evening with a spectacular rendition of his notorious, and much beloved single, “Take Me To Church.” Hozier delivered a memorable performance Tuesday evening, every bit as good as the hype.