Thursday night (Feb. 23) at New York City’s intimate Highline Ballroom, Sinéad O’Connor set the modest goal of “not fucking up and sounding like a cat forced to listen to traditional Irish music.” That was the first of what we hoped would be many noteworthy soundbites from the notorious firebrand. Although, technically, it wasn’t a soundbite. O’Connor had composed a note for the audience (read by her friend) informing us she had laryngitis. It was one bump in the otherwise smooth release of How About I Be Me (And You Be You)?: solid reviews, four intimate shows in L.A. and New York and a string of tabloid ambushes behind her.
Once on stage, O’Connor was jovial, swaying her hairless head, seemingly immune to any drama or ailments. We wondered how this new, less caustic Sinead would stack up. Save for a few high notes, she sounded as powerful as we all remember during the 19-song set. She kicked things off (wait for it…) with “Take Off Your Shoes,” an angry new song highlighting her voice’s beautiful fury. But of the eight new tracks O’Connor rolled out, many were charmingly acerbic … or even happy.
So Sinéad has cooled off, but we still hoped for some saucy moments: we shushed the more rambunctious folks between songs to hear her thoughts on Whitney Houston, her original (profane) title for How About and her love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with Ireland. At some point it became apparent that what she’d lost in bitterness and bizarre Twitter TMI-sharing, she’d made up for with some comedic chops. We’ll take it!
On Ireland sucking:
“How many Irish people are here?” (Based on the overwhelming amount of “Wooo!”-ing, we don’t think this was an accurate poll.) “You know you’re better off here, don’t you? For so many reasons.”
On Irish mannerisms:
“You can always tell an Irishman, but you can’t tell him much. Also, they say an Irishman is a man or woman who can tell you to go fuck yourself in such a way that you’ll want to.”
On alternate titles:
“I really wanted to call [the new album] How About I Be Me (And You Fuck Off)?” Among the laughter she whispered, “But, that wouldn’t be very nice.”
After “Nothing Compares 2 U” — John Reynolds (O’Connor’s first husband and How About producer) “always calls that song ‘Nothing Compares 2 U, U Bastard.’” It was an unexpected light moment after such an emotionally charged song. That’s called comedic timing, friends.
On Whitney Houston:
“We’ll be doing four shows in America, thanks be to God. I mean that we’re in America, not that we’re only doing four shows. Would love to be doing more shows. [And every night] I’ve been dedicating ['I Am Stretched On Your Grave'] to Miss Whitney Houston.”
On getting over relationships:
“I wrote ['Never Get Old'] when I was 15. There was a boy at school and all the girls thought he was gorgeous, but I got to go out with him … He wanted to break up. By the fourth husband I got over it.”
Before “No Man’s Woman”: “This is a very odd thing for a lady who’s been married four times to sing. Nevertheless … ”
“['Old Lady'] is a song about having a crush on your boyfriend’s best friend.”
“['Last Day Of Our Acquaintance'] is a song to play around anyone you want to get rid of.”
On audience participation:
Before “The Emperor’s New Clothes” — “Feel free to sing along if you’re old enough to remember this song.” Almost everyone laughed, and then obliged.
In the middle of “Jealous” she said with a grin, “You’s have to do the high notes with me.” To which the crowd responded with “wooo’s” before hitting the high notes with her.
Revisit the original video for “Nothing Compares 2 U” below: