It just took one tune to reassure the crowd at Los Angeles’ El Rey Theatre Sunday night that Sinead O’Connor’s voice remains a mighty instrument. By the end of her guaranteed cover of John Grant’s “Queen of Denmark”– a true marvel of a tune, marrying sincerity and snark, despair and defiance– the Irish singer-songwriter made it clear that the fire still burns in her vocal cords.
It was the first in a series of cumulative exhalations in the sold-out club over the course of her tight but genuine set, part of her first North American trip in over five years. To say the really least, the 53- year-old artist has actually navigated some rough waters in the last couple of years and there was a palpable sense of the whole room rooting her on, of longtime fans lending her a telepathic hand of goodwill. O’Connor more than delivered on the fervency of that hope with a 72- minute set that was neither tentative nor untethered, as she shunned crowd small talk– beyond repeated, gushing thanks– and sang her heart out.
Backed by a young and passionate quintet, O’Connor took the phase barefoot, outfitted in a hijab and conventional Muslim attire– she converted to Islam in 2018 and took the name Shuhada Sadaqat while professionally keeping her offered name. She explored nearly the whole breadth of her brochure with a handful of tracks originating from her development sophomore album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got, launched 30 years ago next month. (An album that reached everywhere as evidenced by Lil Wayne shouting her out on his brand-new album Funeral.)
Among those, the infuriatingly still appropriate “Black Young boys on Mopeds”– shot through with pictures of bigotry, hardship, and political corruption– stung hardest as O’Connor sang, “These threaten days, to say what you feel is to dig your own tomb” over a gentle acoustic strum and an elegiac chorus of wordless backing vocals.
” The Emperor’s New Clothes” remains a bracing romp, “The Last Day of Our Acquaintance” a cathartic battle cry and the Prince-penned “Nothing Compares 2 U” a symphony of wailing and want, still heartrendingly familiar to anybody whose plumbed the depths of romantic anguish. If O’Connor has actually lost a bit of her fastball in terms of the highest notes, she hasn’t lost a single iota of her power. In reality, it felt as if she might’ve even been keeping back a tiny bit for both for singing conservation functions and to lend a real sense of dynamics.
While she strangely enough left out any songs from her incendiary 1987 launching The Lion and the Cobra, she avoided around the rest of her collection offering a set from 1994’s Universal Mom– consisting of the mantra-like prayer of appreciation “Thank You For Hearing Me”– another pair from 2000’s Faith and Nerve, and a trio of tunes from her dynamite 2012 release How About I Be Me (And You Be You)? including the giddy ode to marital relationship “fourth and Vine” and previously mentioned opener “Queen of Denmark.”
For all the talk of her singing firepower, 2 of the night’s most moving minutes were the quietest. Initially, an a cappella take of “I Am Extended on Your Grave” reached a location of divinity and a similarly bare version of “In This Heart,” including chill-bump 3 part harmonies, brought a pin-drop quiet to the space.
At the set’s end, O’Connor flashed a bright smile and provided another round of thanks and was off. She might not have actually wished to clutter up the night with talk, however the music did a great task of letting her fans know how she’s doing.