An honest performer: nothing compares to Sinéad O’Connor

The singer’s gifts are still very much on display

Sinéad O’Connor: a headstrong artist who grapples with stinging topics. Photograph: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Sinéad O’Connor: a headstrong artist who grapples with stinging topics. Photograph: Mike Coppola/Getty Images

Thu, Jul 11, 2013, 18:10

Sinéad O’Connor
National Concert Hall

There are few people who can grasp a bunch of nettles without involuntarily dropping it, but Sinéad O’Connor does just that; she’s a headstrong artist who grapples with stinging topics that others choose to ignore. In some people’s minds, such a policy makes her either an anarchist or one of those do-gooder pop stars with one eye on the popularity polls. Factored into this mix are O’Connor’s well-publicised (sometimes at her own behest) personal issues, which have in the past threatened to undermine her gifts as a true maverick and visionary artist.

Such gifts were very much on display here as O’Connor guided her band (which included her daughter, Róisín, on backing vocals) through a career retrospective that was effectively divided between three records: her 1989 mainstream crossover second album, I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got (from which she performed Three Babies, The Emperor’s New Clothes, Nothing Compares 2 U, The Last Day of Our Acquaintance, and a pin-drop version of I Am Stretched on Your Grave); her 1994 record, Universal Mother (from which she sang Fire on Babylon and Thank You for Hearing Me); and her most recent release, How About I Be Me (and You Be You)? from which she delivered Take Off Your Shoes, The Wolf Is Getting Married, Queen of Denmark and VIP.

These and some others were dispatched with a kind of tough love that was utterly in and of the moment.

While chummy stagecraft might not be O’Connor’s thing, there is nonetheless an obvious balance struck between fan and performer. As O’Connor sings in The Emperor’s New Clothes: “Whatever it may bring, I will live by my own policies, I will sleep with a clear conscience . . . Maybe it sounds mean, but I really don’t think so. You asked for the truth and I told you.”