In the impressive setting of the Sage music centre in Gateshead, Sinead O'Connor enthralled the audience at this show with the power and passion of her voice. This was a rare UK performance from the Irish singer as part of a summer tour of European venues, accompanied only by the acoustic guitarist Steve Cooney and the keyboard player Kieran Kiely.
Wearing jeans and a shirt and playing surely the scruffiest guitar ever seen on stage, a barefoot O'Connor announced that the set would be made up of quiet songs designed to aid a good night's sleep. The setlist featured an eclectic mix of material, some of it from last year's album, Theology, and a selection of older numbers. Highlights included "Never Get Old", written when she was 15, "All Babies", "Something Beautiful" and "Watcher of Men", during which the intensity of her voice raised hairs on the back of the neck. A dramatic performance of "Big Bunch of Junkie Lies", introduced as a "nasty" song written about someone she loved very much (surely a reference to Shane MacGowan and the furore O'Connor caused when she shopped him to the police for using heroin) was memorable.
My personal favourite was a great rendition of "Black Boys on Mopeds", where, perhaps as a comment on the current state of violence among young people in this country, she altered the lyrics from "police who kill black boys on mopeds" to "boys who kill other boys on mopeds". Other classics, including "The Last Day of Our Acquaintance" – introduced as another "nasty" song – and "Thank You for Hearing Me", were well received.
Not all the songs benefited from the pared-down treatment. "I Am Stretched on Your Grave" was not as effective without its usual rhythmic percussion and fiddle, and "Nothing Compares 2 U" lost something without fuller instrumentation. That aside, the acoustic backing showcased the incredible range of O'Connor's voice, which is sometimes diluted when she performs with a full band. Never the most comfortable stage performer, she seemed more assured in this setting.
Over the years, O'Connor's actions and utterances, often misinterpreted, have limited her appeal to an extent and made her a figure of ridicule for some. This powerful performance showed what a talented artist she is, one who should be appreciated by a wider audience.
Judith Pidgeon, IT analyst, Sale, Cheshire
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