A small skeleton wearing a sombrero and holding a guitar was propped on top of the drum kit. An illuminated plastic pumpkin grinned out to the audience in the darkness.
It was Halloween at Paradise Rock Club.
Opener James Bay came out with half his face painted, a taste of the costumes that the main act, Hozier, would appear in.
Out of the darkness and onto the stage emerged a hodge-podge of characters: Red Riding Hood on keyboard, a vampire on bass, a drummer with KISS-inspired face paint, a Sugar Skull cellist, two zombies as back-up singers, and Slenderman as the lead singer: Andrew Hozier-Byrne.
Hozier (rhymes with “cozier”) opened with “Like Real People Do,” and kept his Slenderman mask on until the end of the song.
His haunting voice live sounded nearly identical to his haunting voice on the album, and his easy, charismatic personality charmed the crowd.
“Is anyone here Irish?” he asked. Hozier is Irish himself, and the crowd answered his question with hoots and hollers. He laughed and replied simply, “I love Boston.”
Throughout the night, Hozier kept Halloween alive. He threw handfuls of packaged candy to the audience. When that ran out, he switched to candy corn.
He highlighted the people in the audience who dressed up: a fan with a Doody mask, a fairly convincing Walter White, and a fairy-unicorn-princess hybrid.
The Irish musician explained Irish Halloween “Samhain” (pronounced Sow-en) to the crowd. It is believed that the border between the world of the living and the world of the supernatural is thinnest on Samhain, and spirits can cross over. The living lit fires and had fun to keep the spirits away.
Halfway through the set, the rest of the band left the stage, leaving Hozier alone with his guitar. The rowdy crowd went nearly silent as Hozier slowed down the night with a cover of Skip James’ “Illinois Blues.” The crowd actually shushed two girls that were talking during “Cherry Wine” from Hozier’s first EP. He then brought Sugar Skull cellist Alana Henderson back onstage, whose lovely and high voice complemented Hozier’s for the duet “In a Week,” from his album.
He encouraged crowd assistance with percussion for “Work Song,” from his second EP, and introduced the audience to his band members. It was a nice Halloween treat to learn one of his zombie back-up singers, Ruby Amanfu, had attended Berklee College of Music.
He closed out the show with his most well-known tune: “Take Me To Church,” which has been nominated for “Best Song with a Message” by MTV. The crowd sang every word, then called Hozier out for an encore.
He sang two more songs, ending finally with “From Eden,” originally from his second EP, but re-released on the album.
The band wrapped arms around each other’s backs and bowed in synchronization, smiling widely at the applause.
Then, as a Halloween trick, each member pulled out a can of silly string and sprayed the crowd.
Hozier returns to Boston in March to perform at the House of Blues.