Irish singer-guitarist Andrew Hozier-Byrne -- simply Hozier to his fans -- has found a mixed blessing in "Take Me to Church."

On the one hand, the haunting hit has launched Hozier's career into the stratosphere, earning the 25-year-old a Grammy nomination for song of the year and the instant love of millions of fans, some of whom squeezed into a sold-out House of Blues Friday night.

But before we all sing a rousing chorus of "Amen," it should be pointed out that artists that get this big, this fast, on the strength of just one song often have an impossible time living up to their early success (See: Marc Cohen, the Cardigans, Crash Test Dummies, etc.)

See photos from Hozier's concert in the gallery above.

Hozier performs at House of Blues in Dallas, TX, on Mar. 20, 2015.

Hozier performs at House of Blues in Dallas, TX, on Mar. 20, 2015.

Jason Janik
Like Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," "Take Me to Church" is a song about complicated love that sounds spiritual, but really isn't. Hozier has said in interviews he wrote it inspired by hypocrisy in the Catholic church. The video implies the song is about gay persecution. Hozier wisely chose to leave the meaning ambiguous and didn't explain the song before diving into a note-perfect version of it three-fourths of the way through his 85-minute concert.

As soon as "Church" ended, a small but sizable portion of the audience headed for the exits. Their loss. The entire show was a powerful seminar in angst and heartache, with the occasional moment of redemption.

Backed by a mostly female sextet and flanked by cellist Alana Henderson, Hozier focused on the starker side of R&B and fleshed it out with tribal drums and eerie backing vocals.  The stop-and-start soul of "From Eden" segued into the grunge-y "Jackie and Wilson" and into the Brill Building-styled "Someone New," a song he described as "about love at its most fleeting and futile and empty, and it was appropriately co-written by an ex-girlfriend."

He took a side trip into contemporary pop with a full-blown cover of Amerie's "1 Thing." Yet he spent much of the show showing off his expert feel for 20th century blues, moving from the John Lee Hooker vibe of "To Be Alone" to the electric slide-guitar stomp of "It Will Come Back" to a bold solo version of Skip James' 1931 song "Illinois Blues."

With Hozier lurking in the shadows of a dimly-lit stage, the concert aimed for the morose and hit the bull's-eye. It was so mournful, in fact, that the murder ballad "In One Week" qualified as one of the show's lighter moments.

Yet it's a testament to the warmth of his deep, soulful tenor that his concert full of songs about death, sin and poisonous love seemed almost uplifting.

By Thor Christensen, Special Contributor. Email him at

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