Sometimes the second time is a charm, too. And sometimes bigger can be better.
Monday night, the Irish singer/songwriter Hozier returned to the Kansas City area, seven months after selling out Liberty Hall in Lawrence. This time he drew a much larger crowd — about 5,000 fans — to Starlight Theatre, where he delivered more of the same: songs about faith and love cast in various shades of blues, rock, folk and soul.
Hozier (born Andrew Hozier-Byrne) is best known for his song “Take Me to Church,” a track from his self-titled debut, the only album in his catalog. He would play nearly every song on that album plus two covers: a version of the Beatles’ “Blackbird” rearranged to sound like something off Paul Simon’s “Rhythm of the Saints” album; and Ariana Grande’s “Problem,” which Hozier said was supposed to be for fun but sounded like a generic, straight-up rock-blues song.
He needed those covers to fill out a show that lasted less than 80 minutes and could have used a few more jolts of energy. Hozier is a commanding singer, capable of belting out a blues or soul anthem and crooning a folk ballad. His stage presence, however, is a bit introverted.
Most of his banter was limited to brief introductions, several of which were just the song’s title. Nonetheless, he captivated a large crowd that was attentive and generous with applause and praise.
Backed by a six-piece band that included cellist Alana Henderson and two backup singers, he opened with “Like Real People Do,” a love ballad with a heavy gospel-soul vibe, then a rustic-folk song with a noir-ish title, “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene.” He followed that with “From Eden,” a love song drenched in soul that bears a light Hall & Oates vibe.
Hozier is a crafty songwriter with an ear for appealing melodies and catchy grooves. A few songs took unexpected turns, like “Work Song,” his closer. But for the most part they stay on the rails, even when evoking the grimy blues sound of the Black Keys, as he did on “To Be Alone” and “It Will Come Back.”
About halfway through, Hozier introduced Henderson, a fellow native of County Wicklow, who joined him at the microphone where they sang the dark but lovely ballad “In a Week,” accompanied only by Hozier on guitar. Other highlights: “Sedated,” a hypnotic, keyboard-driven soul ballad; and “Arsonist’s Lullaby,” a slow-burning blues ballad.
He finished the first set with “Take Me to Church,” the song that went viral in 2013 and made him a star (the single has exceeded sales of 5 million). The crowd, which sang along throughout the show, leaned hard into this one, raising arms, clapping and singing fervently, adding to the heavy gospel vibe.
If Hozier’s growing weary of singing it, he didn’t show it. Instead, he treated it like the charmed link it has become between him and his growing population of fans.
Like Real People Do; Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene; From Eden; Jackie and Wilson; To Be Alone; Someone New; Blackbird; It Will Come Back; In a Week; Arsonist’s Lullaby; Sedated; Take Me to Church. Encore: Cherry Wine; Problem; Work Song.