Lulling, dulling, and calm

Sinéad O’Connor, Orpheum Theatre, October 22, 2007
By JIM SULLIVAN  |  October 30, 2007
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Sinéad O’Connor

Sinéad O’Connor still has a terrific voice, but the diminutive Irish singer did not seem wholly interested in being at the Orpheum Theatre a week ago Monday. Maybe the half-sold house had an effect. Or maybe it’s the nature of post-firebrand maturity. But when O’Connor, in short, cropped black hair and a black suit, began with “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” a ferocious song from her second album, 1987’s The Lion and the Cobra (Capitol), it sounded sluggish. She sang almost perfunctorily, eyes cast downward. She staged a quick comeback with the Celtic slow groove of “I Am Stretched on Your Grave” (from 1990’s I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got), a song that seemed more suited to the now-40-year-old. Those were the extremes. There were also stretches of lulling — sometimes dulling — calm.

On her current tour, O’Connor is showcasing her hits and digging back into her catalogue while unveiling bits from her latest CD, Theology (Koch), a two-disc, half-rock/half-folk collection of covers and originals. She has called that release — her first collection of new material in seven years — an attempt to find peace in a post-9/11 world.

She played only three Theology tracks: “Something Beautiful,” “If You Had a Vineyard” (dedicated to “Christians who think God likes war”), and “Rivers of Babylon.” Her final encore was the unreleased title song from an upcoming movie, “The Water Horse.” All were gentle, folk-centered, and slow-to-mid-tempo. Her backing quintet emphasized softer strings-accordion-keyboard arrangements, with the fiddler often leading the way. Yes, there were beautiful, meditative moments, but the set rocked rarely and coasted too often. Still, there was no denying the power of “Nothing Compares 2 U,” “The Last Day of Our Acquaintance,” or the most pleasant surprise of the night, a four-part a cappella vocal rendition of “In This Heart.” When she sang, in “Black Boys on Mopeds,” “These are dangerous days/To say what you feel is to dig your own grave,” the lyrics rang true. And that song was recorded 17 years ago.

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