SINEAD O’CONNOR doesn’t care about the public’s perception of her. If that’s been evident in the way she’s lived her life over the past 46 years then it’s amplified here tonight.
Literally. Just before an angelic, a cappella rendition of I Am Stretched on Your Grave, O’Connor strolls up to the mic and lets loose an almighty belch. “I’m very sorry,” she says with a cheeky smile. “Now you see what my band has to put up with.”
Such quips exemplify the kind of fun-loving form O’Connor exudes throughout her 19-song set. Clearly enjoying being back on the stage, tonight marks her third London date in as many months as she slowly rebuilds and regains her mojo as a live performer.
Following two solo acoustic shows in the capital, this fullband show is the first on a rescheduled European tour, cancelled last year following a "very serious breakdown” in the singer’s long-running battle with bipolar disorder.
It’s encouraging then to see how great O’Connor looks when she bounces onto the Barbican’s stage shortly after 8.30pm. Lean and with head shaved, she rolls back the years and cuts as fit and energetic a figure as she did during her ’90s prime.
She hasn’t lost any of the delicious venom in her voice either. Opening with a stunning cover of John Grant’s Queen of Denmark, she spits out the chorus refrain with a vigour and fury reminiscent of past. 4th and Vine, from her latest (and very fine) album How About I Be Me (And You Be You) follows before The Emperor’s New Clothes elicits the first large cheer of the night.
Similar waves of enthusiasm sweep from audience to stage whenever O’Connor takes a moment to flex her truly stunning vocal chords. This is particularly true when she’s tackling songs from the early part of her 25-year career. Barefooted, her voice regularly raises in range from a whisper to a scream in a manner that seems so effortless over a singa- long Jackie and a mournful Three Babies.
That her talent comes so naturally to her might account for why tonight at times feels a little under-rehearsed. Granted, this is the first night of the tour with her five-piece band, but it’s disappointing to hear minor classics such as Nothing Compares To You sound so loose and unfocussed.
The setlist too, although peppered with fan favourites, swings towards the slow to mid-tempo end of her back catalogue. It’s only when O’Connor injects a rousing The Wolf Is Getting Married and a fantastically ferocious Fire On Babylon that you realise how lacking the evening is in raucous release.
Nonetheless, despite an indulgent encore, there’s enough here to suggest that O’Connor’s return as a live performer is on track to match her artistic resurgence. She should truly hit her stride by the time she returns to these shores this summer.