Sinead O'Connor, St John-at-Hackney, London
Skrillex, Academy, Bristol

The often controversial singer packs an emotional punch as she lets her powerful voice rip in an east London church

Performing in a church is, for Sinead O'Connor, surely the very definition of "conflicted".

At least, it is if you're hazy about the timeline. An outspoken critic of established religion in her early career, the singer knew whereof she spoke, following a troubled childhood spent in and out of Catholic asylums. Her controversial stance reached a peak in 1992, when she caused uproar in America on Saturday Night Live modifying a Bob Marley song to accuse the Roman Catholic church of child abuse.

By the end of the 1990s, she'd been ordained as a priest – Mother Bernadette Mary – in an independent Catholic church. Of course, being a Christian and being opposed to the established church are not mutually exclusive, but her apparent conversion was an eyebrow-raiser. The religious content of her work has since increased. She released an album with the title She Who Dwells in the Secret Place of the Most High Shall Abide under the Shadow of the Almighty (a reference to Psalm 91), containing Latin hymns. Another album, Throw Down Your Arms, was based on Rastafarianism, and her most recent effort, Theology, consisted largely of religious songs. Her new album, Home, is cut from the same cloth: this show's opening track contains the words "I played the part of Jesus".

Tonight, she's a replica of the Sinead who first rose to fame, with one crucial difference. Her head shaven with just the slightest hint of a Travis Bickle on top, she wears teetering stilettos, leatherette leggings, a black basque and an Eighties success coat. But if the Rastafarian wristband isn't a giveaway that a lot has changed, then her tattoo is: an enormous chest-piece of Christ in a tangle of thorns.

Even leaving religion aside, Sinead O'Connor was never the easiest persona to warm to: an icon, whether by accident or design, of the solipsistic student-feminist Eighties left. Clare Grogan's depiction of Sinead as "Niamh Connolly" in Father Ted, portraying her as a joy-hating martinet, seemed all too believable. That said, perhaps she's developed a sense of humour in her old age: another new song has the line "He looks just like me, the bald-headed baby...".

One thing she always had, of course, was one hell of a voice. O'Connor had the ability to flit effortlessly between that Celtic yodel and a startlingly pugnacious blare. And she's still got it, even if her showstopping version of "Nothing Compares 2 U" has lost some of its power now that Prince has reclaimed the song as his own.

Now returned from temporary retirement after developing fibromyalgia, the noise she makes with her fully electrified six-piece band consists mainly of mid-paced MOR rock and sonorous, atmospheric folk, with nothing to frighten the horses. But suddenly, something extraordinary happens. O'Connor dedicates "I Am Stretched on Your Grave" to Wales football manager Gary Speed, news of whose death had filtered through earlier in the day. The room is so silent you can hear a pen click (and, I'm ashamed to admit, it's mine) as she delivers an utterly spellbinding a cappella rendition of the song. The explosion of applause at the end is as much for Speed as it is for Sinead.

The cognoscenti may turn up their noses, but there's something about fast-rising electronic producer Skrillex that has transcended factional divisions, uniting rock fans and dance kids with fiendish effectiveness.

Skrillex is the alter ego of Sonny Moore, former singer in Florida emo band From First to Last, who has evidently undergone a conversion every bit as dramatic as Sinead's. With his long hair and nerdy glasses, he may look like a live-action role-play aficionado plucked from the local metal club, but he specialises in physically irresistible electro with bass so thunderous it loosens your fillings. He's also unafraid of crowd-pleasing cheese: I do a double-take when he throws in snatches of Naughty by Nature's "Hip Hop Hooray" and Kriss Kross's "Jump".

Even though I have it on good authority that the set list changes every night and he mixes it up live, it's questionable whether Moore's actually doing anything other than pressing "play". Backed by stereotypical "rave" visuals, he stands behind a trestle table containing CDJ decks, a laptop and a couple of other gadgets, and spends much of the time hands-off, clapping and cheerleading.

The reaction, regardless, is phenomenal: save for precious breakdowns between the beats, the balcony bounces unsettlingly. Suddenly, everything stops. For the Benny Benassi/ Gary Go collaboration "Cinema", arms are thrown around strangers' shoulders and there's a sentimental singalong to the lines "I could watch you for a lifetime/You're my favourite movie/A thousand endings/You mean everything to me". The world's first dubstep power ballad?

Even if you have no frame of reference for comparison, something about Skrillex's shtick is working, and kids you'd normally see at rock festivals are going nuts alongside kids you'd normally see at raves. As history has shown, that's a devastatingly lucrative trick if you can pull it off. Love it or hate it, Moore's got the skrills to pay the bills.

Next Week:

Simon Price gets his poodle on with Def Leppard and Mötley Crüe

Pop Choice

It's a clash of the radio stations as Capital FM's Jingle Bell Ball brings JLS, Jessie J, Ed Sheeran, One Direction, Emeli Sande, Wretch 32, The Saturdays and others to London's 02 (today); and XFM Winter Wonderland brings Chase & Status, Nero, Ed Sheeran (again) and The Big Pink to the Apollo, Manchester (Mon).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border