Thursday 21 November 2019

Sinead O'Connor at Vicar Street, Dublin review - 'when she’s in form her vocal is nothing less than a national treasure'

Sinead O'Connor
Sinead O'Connor
John Meagher

John Meagher

She recently vowed never to play ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ in concert again and Sinéad O’Connor is as good as her word at this hometown show. There’s no room for the Prince cover that opened up her entire future a quarter of a century ago and anyone expecting ‘Mandinka’ or a host of early hits is left disappointed.

It’s just as well that her two most recent albums represent a real return to form for O’Connor because the brisk set is largely culled from both. Wearing her now trademark ecclesiastical dog-collar, the high priest of Irish music opens with a lovely cover of John Grant’s ‘Queen of Denmark’ before galloping through faithful renditions of her best recent songs, ‘Fourth and Vine’ and ‘The Wolf is Getting Married’.

Her latest, cobbled-together band features the Papenfus brothers from the once acclaimed Irish band, Relish, and it acquits itself reasonably well. But this is no vintage O’Connor performance and she appears strangely distracted in places, not least in an a cappella moment that sees one of her female vocalists, Brooke Supple, burst out laughing.

The show takes a turn for the better when she delivers two of her angriest early songs, ‘Black Boys on Mopeds’ and ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ and there’s a spine-tingling hush during a plaintive take on ‘Streetcars’. The latter, the final song from her most recent album I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss, offers a reminder that when she’s in form, this Dubliner’s vocal is nothing less than a national treasure.

But there aren’t enough moments like that tonight and there’s even a listlessness to the between-song banter - which isn’t like Sinéad at all.

The night’s final moment is novel: O’Connor takes ‘The Soldier’s Song’ and twists it into an anthem of anger and recrimination. It’s a provocative end to a night of hits and misses.

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