Sinead O'Connor - City Winery - 11/10/2013

Categories: Last Night

Sinead O'Connor, female spritual soldier, at City Winery
Better Than: Being at basically any other wine bar

Right at the beginning of her show last night at City Winery, Sinead O'Connor explained that she'd be wearing sunglasses for the entirety of the performance. "I really am quite shy," she said, to laughter, although it was obvious that on some level she wasn't at all joking. "If I wear these, it's like you're not looking at me."

See also: Miley Cyrus Redeems Herself on SNL

At the turn of the century, O'Connor had mostly faded into a dignified obscurity. She was releasing records consistently and continuing to tour, but at level of relatively lower visibility than she had during her "Nothing Compares 2 U," Pope-picture-ripping tenure at the top of the worldwide pop pantheon in the early 1990s. She seemed to be fine with this. There was something respectable about it.

Perhaps because of this relatively constant level of semi-fame, she felt comfortable enough in 2011 to publish a blog post sub-titled, "IS SINEAD ABOUT TO HUMP HER TRUCK?" about how lonely she was, how much she wanted to have sex, and that she does definitely do anal. Prurient, funny, confusing, relatable, repelling, sad, and honestly a little arousing, it was the kind of thing that couldn't help but go viral once someone discovered it. It led to an endless series of articles on places like The Huffington Post and The Daily Mail, making O'Connor into a tabloid celebrity all over again. She has spent the intervening two years adding new wrinkles to the story--appearing overweight and with a bad haircut, then slimming down and shaving her head, finding and marrying a man, then getting divorced after a little more than two weeks. Most recently, she wrote an increasingly unhinged series of open letters to Miley Cyrus.

Watching her last night, it was hard to see why she bothered with all that nonsense. With many legacy acts--bands that were more popular in the past than they are now--the general worry is that this old person on stage will forever taint for you the music made by their younger self. If you saw Madonna last year (many did; it made $228 million and was the year's highest-grossing tour), you may forever think of a sweaty millionaire in her mid-fifties incongruously dressed up like a cheerleader when you hear "Lucky Star" or "Material Girl." In general, this is bad.

This isn't the case with O'Connor. Her voice, in many ways the main attraction, remains shockingly clear and affecting, especially when it strains at the top of its register and cracks with emotion. I know it's entirely chronologically fucked for me to say that it reminds me of The Cranberries' Dolores O'Riordan, but that was the Irish female singer I have youthful affection for, and hearing her last night stirred in me all the memories of being young, watching the moody black-and-white video for "Linger" on VH1, and being hopelessly in love.

Unavoidably, O'Connor's most famous song, "Nothing Compares 2 U," is the thing most everyone in the audience was waiting for. She made the brave and curious decision to sing it about 20 minutes into an oddly-sized 80-minute set. The crowd went crazy, which at City Winery meant that a woman in her late forties in a smart jacket and a sort of brass chainmail necklace began screaming so loudly that her friend was eventually forced to shush her. Watching O'Connor sing that song, something she must have done tens if not hundreds of thousands of times, it was remarkable how much she seemed to still enjoy performing it. She waved her hands in the air, twisted her face in a mask of emotion, and threw out the earpiece that had been giving her trouble all night.

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