It Feels So Different

Sinéad O’Connor at the Vogue Theatre, 2/1/20

Photo by Sharon Steele

Fans who had waited a long time for Sinéad O’Connor’s live return – almost 25 years in fact – were not disappointed on Saturday at the Vogue. It has been a long road for the Irish performer, best known for her 1990 chart-topping cover of Prince’s “Nothing Compares 2 U.” O’Connor has struggled with personal issues, PR fiasco’s, and health challenges over the years and is attempting to again re-invent herself. The sold out crowd had high expectations as the memory of the 21 year-old belting out “Troy” at festivals in 1987.

The opener, a cover of John Grant’s “Queen of Denmark” promised a taste of what lay ahead. However, it took until the evenings seventh track, an a cappella version of 1990’s “I am Stretched on Your Grave” for the smiles to really widen. It was here that O’Connor reminded us of her unique vocal talent. The stripped down feel continued with “In This Heart” accompanied only by the acoustic guitar and backing vocals of Jackie Rainey. The vocals were memorable, but this track blended into many of the others that were absent soul or proper musical direction.

Earlier in the set, the new track “Reason with Me” reminded the audience of the singer’s unique ability to go from melodic to angry faster than almost any vocalist in recent memory. Moments like these were scarce unfortunately. It is easy to wonder where she may have ended up musically had she not hit so many bumps along the road. It would be easy to blame her backing band, who were fine but not really able to move the audience; or question why she hasn’t embraced her vocal strength by selecting tracks that showcase it as opposed to what appears an odd mix of 90’s rock flavoured pop. 

But on this, the opening night of her first North American Tour in many years, and her first as Shuhada Sadaqat, her new Muslim name, it’s best to point to the few highlights that tattooed smiles across most of the faces on Granville street this warm winter evening. All of the highlights came from the smash sophomore effort, 1990’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got. “Black Boys on Mopeds” was stunning, and was quickly followed by the haunting, “The Last Days of Our Acquaintance” and the cultural anthem “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

It seemed inevitable that perhaps the most famous, Prince’s cover, “Nothing Compares 2U” would be rolled out. It was a haunting tribute and takes on a new and different meaning than when originally recorded without the late guitarist’s permission 30 years ago. The final song and two quick encores seemed like formalities after she expressed her admiration for Canadians. Before we knew it, she had gathered her shoes and quickly escaped the stage in bare feet after what seemed a brief 75 minutes.

One had to wonder what might have been, and how many more smiles she might have conjured around these parts over the years had things turned out differently. But at least they could wonder with a big grin on their faces.

View our photo gallery of the concert by Sharon Steele HERE.