There’s a sense of returning hero as Sinead O’Connor bounds into the imposing National Concert Hall.
Launching her 10th album I’m Not Bossy I’m The Boss, the inimitable O’Connor, shaven-headed, barefoot, and in white long-sleeved top and leather pants, instantly seems galvanised. Opening proceedings, she spits her apt cover of John Grant’s intense ‘Queen of Denmark’ — “I don’t know what to want from this world“; “I don’t know what it is you want to want from me” — before trying to get the seated crowd in the party mood with ‘4th & Vine’.
There’s one person who can’t be quieted but, having failed to muster those around him to put on their dancing shoes, he moves to the side of the hall where he spends the rest of the show doing his best impression of Bez from the Happy Mondays.
The cleansing chug of ‘Take Me To Church’ finds O’Connor rejuvenated, lifting her hands towards heaven, while on the balcony behind her, the crowd watches on like angels, willing her up. ‘No Man’s Woman’ is as defiant as ever — “I’ve other work I want to get done” — though ‘I Had A Baby’, with its gargles played to the hall, is a misstep. It’s then that you realise it’s been all bombast so far, with O’Connor’s apology for not saying much for fear of getting into trouble the only sign of her delicacy. Who can blame her, really? The band behind her are good but the guitar virtuosos too often try to smother her voice rather than support it. So the acapella subtlety of ‘In This Heart’ is reassuringly stunning, showcasing O’Connor’s range and emotional tug.
This and closing track ‘Streetcars’, where she’s accompanied by sparse keyboard, are the highlights of the night, even managing to outshine the iconic ‘Nothing Compares 2U’; it’s actually unbelievable to hear this song in the flesh, and by the time you come to terms with it, it’s over. The second half of the show doesn’t match the opening 40 minutes, but overall, it is a triumph. She ends with a goodnight hymn she learned from the monks of Glenstal Abbey, proving she can do whatever she wants — she is the boss, after all.