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Culture Reviews
Sinead O'Connor
By Erik Jansma
When Sinead appeared on stage, I was a bit surprised. Surely, I didn’t expect a folk-punk rebel to run on stage, raging with anger against all the wrongs in the world. Neither, however, did I expect a person this shy, this weary of any attention. Looking like she came straight out of her own living-room, barefoot and wearing baggy clothes, Sinead O’Conner was looking modest, a bit less thin than I expected, and slightly tired. Eyes on the ground, she performed “The Emperor’s new clothes’ as if it came straight from the record.

Apparently, half an hour into the concert, the minutes long ovation after a goose bumps-inducing performance of “(You made me) a thief of your Heart” was enough to make Sinead feel comfortable. She became more relaxed, and as the set became a bit more acoustic, she started smiling, sometimes even making funny remarks (“my band has to teach me my own songs”, as she couldn’t get the first chords to a song). Up until that time, her eyes had been on the ground.

The band, indeed, was something that Sinead could completely rely on. With styles varying from folk, rock and trip-hop to reggae, you need a versatile company of musicians. The all-Irish band did well. Of five band members, three were actually doing backing vocals, making each of the songs sound authentic and balanced. Moreover, this wasn’t just a singer with some band performing; it was a united, well-trained, highly skilled crew, almost a family. Sinead remained in charge, though, carefully looking at the band member that had to do a solo or otherwise difficult passage. She’d smile if all went well, she’d raise an eyebrow if she had her doubts.

There were slight annoyances, too, however. The sound, for one, never came completely right. It must be difficult to do so, as Sinead’s voice varies so much in volume. She herself compensates this by moving the microphone away when she’s about to get loud and moving it close when she sings softly. Still she was sometimes inaudible, or just so loud that feedback set in from the monitor speakers. The band’s instruments were tuned in perfect balance, but they were collectively too loud to make Sinead’s voice sound completely right most of the time. But this is marginal criticism: maybe it wasn’t 100% perfect, it was at least for 90%.

More irritating was the screaming that happened whenever a first line of a song had been sung. The concert was a string of greatest hits and I can’t believe that every song was a surprise to the same people all the time. Also I fail to see why such feeling of surprise should be immediately be expressed by screaming at a performer who knows how to scream a lot better. What’s the point in that?

Towards the end of the concert, Sinead went unplugged altogether. And then, her barefoot appearance made sense. She looked and sounded like a protest singer. “These are dangerous times,” she warned in one song, “speaking out can get you killed.” It was her appearance and lyrics at that moment that for me defined Sinead O’Connor and her songs that night. This concert wasn’t a collection of musically exceptionally well-performed songs only. Almost every Sinead O’Connor song is political, hit or not. And Sinead looks like she still very well knows and means what she sings. Sincere and honest, she gave a great concert and left me wondering how her lyrics would sound in Russian.

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