“All babies are born saying God’s name” from All Babies by Sinead O’Connor.
Sinead O’Connor played Barcelona’s Palau de la Musica Catalana on Wednesday June 11th. DP and I were there too, in well-chosen seats, in the middle of a packed palace.
The very mention of her name evokes a visceral response in me. I am reminded of an earlier Sinead. Angry young woman. Victim of child abuse. Grieving over the plight of the Irish. Ripping up a picture of Pope John Paul II while singing the word “evil” during her musical appearance on Saturday Night Live. Storming off stages. She was a tempest raging.
Sensible DP was not sure that Sinead was the best bet. 66 Euros each is our grocery budget for a week. But I wanted to see her and hear this voice that has been haunting me since my early twenties when The Lion and the Cobra was released.
She was not what I expected. She walked onto the stage at 9:30 p.m. sharp (that’s right… concerts in Spain start really late) and, without any fanfare, launched into the first of a number of spiritual songs from her newest album Theology. She played Something Beautiful, If You Had a Vineyard and I Don’t Know How to Love Him. Check out part of Something Beautiful here. These were lovely God-songs delivered without anger or irony. Then, Sinead began to make her way slowly backwards, pulling herself through the cramped air vent of her own personal history towards the songs that we’d come to hear. And she went there with power and grace.
Here’s a partial play list:
Last Day of Our Acquaintance
The Emperor’s New Clothes
I am Stretched on Your Grave
Black Boys on Mopeds
Nothing Compares 2 U
Thank You for Hearing Me
This is to Mother You
Sinead O’Connor is 41. Her hair is still cropped incredibly short. She wore faded jeans and a long sleeved shirt that made me think of Africa. She is rounder, softer than before. There is nothing rock star-like about this Sinead. There was almost no banter in the set. As she performed, moving through the emotions of each song, I could see, in her face, each of her previous ages. 15 when she was sent to reform school. 20 when her first album was released. 33 when she attempted suicide. Today at 41.
When she sang Nothing Compares 2 U I cried. Love songs come and love songs go but this one has endured. During the first chorus she laughed a bit in response to a technical glitch (that I still don’t understand); DP was distracted by the laughter. I cried for the beauty of the song. You can listen to Nothing Compares 2 u here.
She was not what I expected. She did not rage nor did she sustain, for long, those notes for which she’s famous. She’s become more of a folk singer than a pop/rock artist although my sense is that she would be uncomfortable with those labels. She is re-interpreting and singing her songs with the experience of a woman, and mother, who is now halfway through her life and not so perilously close to the jagged edges of her own adolescence.
She was better than I expected. When Sinead left the stage of the Palau, after an hour and a half, she waved and smiled. She was lovely.