Blues Rock musician Hozier and Iceland’s new singer-songwriter Asgeir may have set a new record for number of bodies able to squeeze into Portland’s popular Crystal Ballroom Friday night. Nary a square-inch of spare space could be found at the sold-out venue during an exuberant evening showcasing the different, remarkably talented musicians.
As Hozier opened on the big brassy notes of “Angel of Small Death and the Codeine Scene,” the ballroom pulsated with dancing fans and his high-energy sound. Next he performed gloriously captivating “From Eden,” as excited fans clapped in time to the cadence.
Naturally, Hozier also included R&B fan-favorite “Jackie and Wilson” and his delightfully fun, pop-flavored “Someone New.”
Other show-stoppers: lovely Celtic-flavored “In a Week” performed as a duet with Belfast’s Alana Henderson, and his howling, sensual “To Be Alone.” Hozier also tossed in a few surprises –including Amerie’s “1 Thing” (note: look for that one online, it’s worth the time).
Backed by a nearly all-female band and his backup singers, the evocative “Like Real People Do” was a crowd-favorite, as was “Take Me to Church,” still a centerpiece of his current concert tour. Evoking an enormous and rousing crowd sing-a-long, the popular hit single continues to hold remarkable staying power and was all-the-more impressive heard live.
From Ireland, Hozier’s early musical influences included Chicago-style blues and Motown. He first started writing songs as a teen, joining his first band at age 15. He later enrolled at Trinity College in Dublin, but left during his first year to record music demos for Universal Music.
His hit single “Take Me to Church” received a “Song of the Year” Grammy nomination but was beat out by Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me.”
Upcoming tour stops for Hozier include Seattle, Vancouver BC, Salt Lake City and Denver.
All this, plus the musical nirvana of Asgier.
Icelandic singer-songwriter and musician Asgier (Asgeir Trausti Elnarsson) opened the show with an impressive, transcendent setlist of his own. Just 22 years old, his etheric melodies are awe-inspiring.
From his self-titled debut album, Asgier performed “Higher” and “Going Home.” He sings with his own Asgeir Trausti Band and has received a variety of honors from the Icelandic Music Awards including Album of the Year.
It’s a sad commentary when concert-goer’s don’t show due respect, as this up-and-coming artist deserved far more quiet during his setlist. To add to the challenges, the sound system wasn’t quite up to par during his first Portland appearance.
Fortunately despite these small setbacks, the ethereal musical gift of Asgeir could still be heard and felt. He’ll be touring in May with Alt-J.
Here’s Asgeir’s “Going Home”
He concluded the setlist with his popular “King and Cross.” In today’s frenetic-paced world, the energy of music like this is much-needed.
About the Crystal
The Crystal Ballroom opened its doors as a ballroom in 1914, continuing to operate during the Great Depression, and was a great place to catch rock n’ roll acts in the 1960s. At the time of its construction, the Crystal’s “floating” mechanical dance floor (now fully restored to proper working order) was said to be unique on the Pacific Coast. Today, it may be the only one left in the United States, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.