The Mystery Train Live with Sinead O'Connor
Sunday 23 April 2000

Lord Have Mercy
You’re Not Free (If You Don’t Know Me) - new song, title uncertain
Take Back What Doesn’t Belong To Me - new song, title uncertain
House of the Rising Sun
I Believe In You
Full Circle - new song
On Raglan Road
Amazing Grace
I Am Stretched On Your Grave
She Moved Through The Fair

Reviewed by Mandy Green

Having arrived at the venue earlier on Sunday afternoon to collect the tickets for the evening’s showcase, my friend and I decided to pop into the H.Q. bar for a drink.  No sooner had we found a table, when in through the back door walked none other than Sinead.

We’d stopped off at the venue the day before to get the tickets, however they hadn’t yet arrived, so surely this was fate - hahaha!

So we’re sitting therein the bar and I can see Sinead in her navy priest gear, long grey woollen coat, knee length brown zip-up boots, wraparounds on top of her head, crucifix hanging from a Rastafarian ribbon and I’m wondering if and when there might be an opportune moment to approach her, assuming, that is, that I can work up the nerve to go on over should that opportune moment present itself.

Knowing that I would kick myself for a long time afterwards had I not spoken to Sinead, and with the enthusiastic encouragement of my friend who would have to bear witness to said arse-kicking, I headed over to her table. Sinead was sitting with the musician who would be accompanying her on acoustic guitar later that evening.

I explained that I was over from London to see tonight’s gig and asked if it would be ok to ask her a few questions about her set.  I asked if she’s be playing any new material tonight and Sinead told me she’d be singing 3 new songs and confirmed that the new single will be released in 2 1/2 week’s time.  She also confirmed that the new album would be out in June.  I thanked her for her
time and headed back to my own table, the biggest grin plastered right across my face!

Fast forward to 6pm and, whilst standing in the queue, still wearing said grin, I got talking to an American lady who’s living in Dublin.  Asking about the lack of advertising for tonight’s gig, she explained that it was only through listening to John Kelly’s programme and/or word of mouth that people would know about Sinead’s appearance.  She also informed me that it was Sinead who approached John Kelly and asked to appear at this limited edition live event, after having heard Paul Brady’s Mystery Train show earlier in the series.

The venue itself holds 500 people and was sold out.  We were lucky enough to get front row seats.  At the end of our row I spotted Bishop Pat Buckley.

At about 45 mins before showtime, Sinead popped her head through the curtain and looked over at the audience, smiling.

The house lights came down at about 7.20pm and John Kelly took to the stage to introduce tonight’s special guest, Sinead O’Connor.  He explained that it would be a very informal affair, part conversation, part song, in fact we were told to “ think of it as though we’ve all been invited into Sinead’s front room for the night!”.

Sinead then stepped out onto the stage in her priest’s frock to the welcoming applause and cheers of the local crowd.  She opened the night, which was a very low-key, down-to-earth, back-to-your-roots, stripped down affair, with the accompaniment of acoustic guitar throughout, with “Lord Have Mercy”, a song she’d performed on the Late Late Show last year. (“Seeing as it’s Easter, I
thought I’d sing this one...”).

After 15 minutes of conversation with John, Sinead took to the stage again to sing two new songs from her upcoming album, explaining that hearing them performed tonight is to hear them as they sounded when they were first written and not how they will sound on the album, backed by a full band, adding that she thought it would be nice to perform them tonight in that vein.

Taking a wild guess at what I believe to be the titles, here goes: the first, “You’re Not Free (If You Don’t Know Me)” has a strong spiritual presence to it, in both words and sound, and the second, “Take Back What Doesn’t Belong To Me”, with its themes of pain, anger, reaffirmation and new-found strength could be a continuation of “Fire On Babylon”.  But maybe that is to over-simplify.  Performed as they were tonight, the new songs sound like a natural progression from the songs and themes explored on the “Gospel Oak EP”, however Sinead did point out that she would be singing them in the style that they were originally written, so they will probably sound quite different when they appear as album tracks on the upcoming “Faith & Courage”.

Throughout the night Sinead was asked about her early influences and her favourite singers.  She said she loved Ray Charles, Etta James, Liz Fraser and Ella Fitzgerald, as well as both Bobs!!  She was asked what kind of music she was listening to at the moment and she said she liked a lot of the new R’n’B material and that Macy Gray was the best thing to happen to music in a long
time.  She also spoke of her early beginnings busking in Dublin by way of introduction to the next song, a spine-tinglingly beautiful rendition of “House of the Rising Sun”.  Her phrasing is stunning.

Elaborating on the influence of Bob Dylan’s “Slow Train Coming”, Sinead then went on to sing the most emotive live version of “I Believe In You” that I’ve ever heard.  Her voice has an added depth, maturity and strength to it, qualities that shone through in her choice of songs tonight.

Sinead then introduced the next song, “Full Circle”, explaining that it had been recorded for the film “When The Sky Falls”, about the life and death of the journalist Veronica Guerin, adding that unfortunately there won’t be a soundtrack to the film and that, as it didn’t make it onto her album either, she thought it would be nice if she performed it for us tonight. The song was originally written and performed by Loreena MacKinnett. I haven’t heard the original, but I have to say that Sinead’s performance of the song was gorgeous and I’m hoping that it will make it onto one of her upcoming single releases.

“On Raglan Road” was perfect, a song which Sinead has made her own.  Introduced by way of discussion of the strong influence traditional Irish music has had on Sinead throughout her childhood and singing career.

John asked Sinead if there are any plans to tour by way of promoting the new album.  Sinead replied that there won’t be a tour for this album, explaining that Atlantic are a very radio-driven label and that having two children makes touring difficult.  There may be plans for headline gigs in the UK and Ireland, and possibly a tour for the album which follows “Faith & Courage”, jokingly adding that the ideal solution would be for her fans to come to her!!

Sinead was also asked about becoming a priest to which she politely pointed out that she’d prefer to keep that side of her life private, after all she continued, she’s already been accused of being ordained purely for the publicity and speaking about it now would only appear to fan those flames.

Looking down at the set list, John said he was curious to see how Sinead would perform the next song, to which Sinead replied that she’d handle it by “saying what you mean and meaning what you say”, a reference to her earlier discussion concerning the singing lessons she’d had at the Parnell School of Music.  Taking centre stage, Sinead also said that she’d been thinking about tonight and that she hoped to get the audience to sing along with her, “if you can”.  And the song?  “Amazing Grace”, like you’ve never heard it before.  A beautiful song, made more so by the talents of Sinead’s natural voice and pure emotion.  A personal highlight of the night.  The applause was deafening, bearing witness to just how special this was.

Sinead then took to centre stage once more, for the final song of the night, “I Am Stretched On Your Grave”, sung acapella.  She dedicated it to a friend who was recently deceased, adding that certain people here tonight would know who she was referring to.

At approximately 8.50pm, after thunderous applause amidst standing ovations, Sinead left the stage, smiling as she went.

Seconds later she reappeared for an encore.  Deciding upon “She Moved Through The Fair”, Sinead took a moment to remember the words, adding that she “has a mental blank over anything involving marriage!!” and proceeded to woo the crowd with that Voice of hers.  Each and every one of us was completely and utterly won over.

Sinead said goodnight, looking for all the world a centred, focused, picture of health and happiness.

This was a very special night, a once in a lifetime opportunity, providing a unique insight into the inspirations and influences that have driven and continue to drive Sinead’s own music and life.


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