Sinead O’Connor at Vicar St., December 16th 2014.
Coming off the back of a critically acclaimed tenth studio album, Sinead O’Connor was in Dublin’s Vicar St. for a hometown gig that saw a full house brave the December weather. As the diminutive singer takes the stage, an air of electric anticipation builds before, with little preamble, the band launch into her cover of John Grant’s Queen of Denmark.
With so strong a back catalogue, O’Connor could be forgiven for relying on bringing out the old hits, but she could never be accused of being an artist who takes the easy route. A brace of songs from her latest two releases set the tempo – 4th & Vine brings a touch of funk to things before a hair-raising, and crowd-pleasing, take on Take Me To Church. Her band are electric, as they are all night, their playing every bit up to the challenge of matching O’Connor’s intensity. Although she may not jump around too much, what movement there is is marked by a sense of tightly coiled energy.
The band step away from the stage though, as O’Connor, under a single light and after a brief false start, sings I Am Stretched On Your Grave – haunting and austere, her voice is powerful and strong. She’s joined at the microphone by band-members Brooke Supple and Clare Kenny for In This Heart – their voices blending beautifully.
Dedicated to Panti Bliss, Thank You For Hearing Me gets some new lyrics, while the pulsing beat gets the crowd moving. Guitarist Brooke Supple, a commanding stage presence in her own right, keeps the audience going at the opening of The Emperor’s New Clothes – as the band let rip, there are smiles all round.
O’Connor closes out her set with Last Day of Our Acquaintance. As the song builds to a crashing finish, the crowd let their appreciation be loudly known, before O’Connor and band make their exit – though she’s back on stage before more than a minute’s passed. Taking up position by keyboardist Graham Henderson for Streetcars, the electric piano her only accompaniment, the sound is intimate and beautiful – her trademark whispered vocals put to good effect.
The final song of the evening is a new one to us all – O’Connor included. Rounding out the night with a rendition of the national anthem is something any Irish person will have experienced – as she breaks out the familiar melody, the reworked lyrics are every bit as provocative as you could expect, or hope. While O’Connor may be in the news for many things beside her music these days, tonight’s performance is a reminder of just how powerful a musician she is.