For her first gig in the capital in four years, and her last of the decade, Sinead O'connor made a triumphant return to the stage when she played to a sold-out crowd at Shepherd's Bush Empire. In the ensuing four years, besides her recent appearance on Good Morning Britain, Sinead has continued to battle well-documented mental health issues, lost custody of one of her children, courted more controversy, become a grandmother and converted to Islam. One constant, however, has remained; her quite brilliant voice.
Sinead may have changed her name to Shuhada Sadaqat as part of her religious conversion but as a performer she is still using the name Sinead O'Connor. That is what was spelt out across the facade of the iconic Shepherd's Bush Empire for Sinead's one and only London date before she takes her tour on into Europe and then America in 2020. Playing without a support act, and to a very enthusiastic, adoring and captivated crowd, Sinead couldn't have put on a better show. In a full-length dress and hijab, a barefooted Sinead looked relaxed and content throughout. There was no religious or political comment at all during the entire evening; the closest Sinead came was to say, "I think you'll like this one" ahead of performing 'Black Boys On Mopeds'. The opening 'Margaret Thatcher on TV' lyric still clearly resonating with her audience.
O'Connor opened up with her well-worked cover of John Grant's 'Queen Of Denmark'. From the first note she sang you almost knew that it was going to be a stand-out performance. Sinead was calm, centred and serene as she sang through a set that showcased a 'best of' in what was to be quite a special night. There was power and passion aplenty as Sinead, and her very accomplished band, delivered up rousing takes on '4th And Vine', 'Harbour' and 'Take Me To Church' but it was during the quieter songs that Sinead really shone and connected with her audience.
Sinead's a cappella rendition of 'I am Stretched On Your Grave' was nothing short of spectacular. Her solo vocal delivery was magnificent, cutting through the Shepherd's Bush Empire in a performance that momentarily had you believe you were in a cathedral. After a few initial whoops and wows at the start of the song you could have heard a pin drop as the audience watched on open-mouthed, mesmerised by a quite outstanding performance. 'Reason With Me' went down similarly well, with the "I sold your granny's rosary for 50p" even getting a few wry laughs from the crowd. Sinead, singing for the large part of the evening with her eyes closed was in her element and in the zone. Her focus was intense when it needed to be and her delivery was pitch-perfect.
With an uplifting arrangement, Sinead sang out a very tender 'Thank You For Loving Me' before 'The Last Day Of Our Acquaintance' seamlessly segued into 'The Emperor's New Clothes'. Sinead O'Connor couldn't finish her set without returning to the song that catapulted her to stardom. With one of the best interpretations of all time, Sinead could not deny her adoring audience the pleasure of hearing 'Nothing Compares 2 U' one more time. She didn't disappoint, it sounded just as potent and impassioned as it had when it was first released. The extended keys, the incisive percussion and continual build and break of the vocal were jaw-dropping.
O'Connor capped of the main set with 'Hold Back The Night' before returning to rapturous applause to perform 'Three Babies' and finally 'Milestones'. The gentle strum of the guitar on 'Three Babies' accompanied another astonishing vocal performance from Sinead O'Connor sealing a performance that will live long in the memory. In terms of stand-out vocal performances I cannot think of anyone who would have touched her. On a cold windy night in London, Sinead brought a little warmth and tenderness and re-affirmed what a star performer she is.