On a freezing cold December evening, folk-rock extraordinaire Hozier and his opening act Suzanne Santo heated up Birmingham’s O2 Academy stage with their sultry lyrics and red-hot guitar riffs. Santo, an American musician who was once part of the band Honey Honey but has now embarked on a solo career, hyped the crowd up with her feisty tunes ‘Ghost in My Bed’ and ‘Handshake’. Each song showcased her extensive musicianship as she played a range of instruments including the violin, which she continued to play as part of Hozier’s main band, staying on the stage after her set to jam alongside the Irish king of indie-rock.

Despite his undeniable fame and success, Hozier is a solidly calm presence onstage, pausing in between songs to joke about the meanings of his lyrics with the audience. The beautiful poetry of the lyrics become even more apparent in live performance, particularly with numbers like ‘Cherry Wine’, which he sang alone onstage with only an acoustic guitar, emphasising the emotion of the song. His more well-known hits, like 2013’s ‘Take Me To Church’ (which even non-Hozier fans have heard of) are performed with more intensity, as he joined hands with the crowd to belt out the religious-themed hit. Audience participation also included a Freddie Mercury-style vocal riff to the melody of ‘To Be Alone’ which gave the crowd a chance to attempt to repeat the singer’s dulcet tones back to him (to no avail). During the encore came an unexpected cover of Destiny’s Child’s single ‘Say My Name’ imbued with more soul than the original, which would have gotten Queen B’s stamp of approval. Throughout the set shone multi-coloured lights matching the tones of each song as Hozier’s voice crooned across the stage, sounding exactly like his records. Overall it was a faultless act, proving the singer’s endless musical talent. His music and live shows are a must for anyone with good taste and a penchant for aesthetic tunes.

Photography by Ali Muzaffar and O2 Academy Birmingham