It’s been somewhat longer than seven hours and fifteen days since Sinead O’ Connor ascended to international stardom with the Prince-penned mega-hit ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’. Since then, her musical career has been mostly overshadowed by off-stage controversies, most notably her idiosyncratic and forthright stance on Catholicism, epitomised by an infamous SNL performance where she tore up a photo of Pope John Paul II live on air.
Given this well-charted animus towards organised religion, it might therefore seem odd that she chose a church (albeit one long deconsecrated) to perform her most recent album How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? But in fact it fits perfectly with the paradoxical nature of this beguiling songstress, at turns both spiritual and profane.
Although one might expect her to be a serious sort, she proves to be an utterly charming host, shyly self-deprecating, completely devoid of ego, deflecting a drunken fan’s heckles with an impromptu rendition of ‘Consider Yourself’ and adding sly flecks of naughtiness to even the most solemn of songs (“I have a universe inside me…and a cucumber.”)
Despite her oft-repeated jibes about her own talents, her new material sparkles. ’4th and Vine’ is an upbeat toe-tapper in a KT Tunstall vein, ‘Queen of Denmark’ a powerful and mischievous take on a John Grant ballad with choruses that recall the unabashed emotion of Harry Nilsson’s ‘Without You’.
But that ethereal, knock-out voice, undiminished by two decades of emotional strife, truly hits its mark during ‘Take Off Your Shoes,’ a passionately angry broadside against the Catholic Church’s history of child abuse that’s the evening’s most affecting moment – even more so than the inevitable, if welcome airing of her most famous song. Sinead O’Connor clearly still has the fire in her, but if this performance is anything to go by, she’s thankfully found peace as well.