Irish singer Andrew Hozier-Byrne is far from your typical pop star. At the Gentilly Stage Friday, the singly-named Hozier delivered the hit song (“Take Me to Church”) that earned him international prominence last year, but he also went beyond that song to show he is a devotee of the Hill Country blues of northern Mississippi and contemporary neo-soul.
Hozier’s voice and songs that equate secular yearning with spiritual bliss are both reminiscent of the late singer Jeff Buckley. His band, which included a cello player and da bank of backup singers, showcased songs like “Sedated” and “Arsonist’s Lullaby” that were driven by fat gospel piano chords and steely rock guitar riffs — One as recognizable as the Velvet Underground’s “Sweet Jane” for “Someone New.”
Early in the set he brought blues guitarist Alvin Youngblood Hart to the stage for both a tribute and collaboration. “I have been approximating his style every night on this tour, so it’s amazing to stand next to this wonderful man,” Hozier said. Together they sang “Illinois Blues,” the Skip James original from early last century. Fingerpicking in a trance blues style, both players traded vocals with no other accompaniment. Later in the set, Hozier used that style for a song from a completely different era: “1 Thing,” the 2005 hit from R&B singer Amerie.
A few minutes later he took his crowd to church, but before that he earned a resounding “amen.”