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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisForget every preconceived notion, any television appearance, every political comment, all the social statements and even her hairstyle (or lack thereof). Outside of the international spotlight and ensuring media glare, Sinead O'Connor is one of the most exceptional vocalists and gifted songwriters of the past twenty years, who's bellowing but gorgeous pipes and ambitious lyrics can rival just about any female rock star of this generation. Anyone who was able to cast aside each polarizing characteristic or previous incident could attest to those enviable qualities holding up on her latest tour, which marks the first in pop/rock contexts this entire decade (following a short stint in the reggae world).
Outside of her talents, O'Connor's also one of the most unpredictable entertainers, switching styles over the years from the aforementioned to old Irish tunes to standards and now spirituals on the new Theology (Koch). And no, we're not talking vintage hymns or old time gospel, but the famous figure's own reflections from the Old Testament, sometimes with quotes taken directly from the texts and others channeled through her controversial lens. Regardless of the direction, the double disc affair features similar track listings on both volumes, one of which was recorded under sparse acoustic contexts in Dublin and the other with a fleshed out full band in London. On stage, O'Connor and her five backers met right smack dab in the gentle but plugged in middle when performing the glorious pair "Something Beautiful" and "If You Had a Vineyard," though she turned completely solo acoustic come the tranquil "Rivers of Babylon."
Outside of a short theological sampling, the set list read like a montage of 1997's So Far... best of collection, covering all her major career crests, many of which haven't been performed in well over a decade. The show started on the familiar footing of a super charged "The Emperor's New Clothes," transitioned into the thick percussion crashes of "I Am Stretched On Your Grave" and the sobering "You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart." Of course "Nothing Compares 2 U" was met with immense applause, though O'Connor mixed up her iconic arrangement of the Prince gem every so slightly, injecting a few more earthy tones behind the keyboard's orchestrated flairs.
From a strictly vocal perspective, "Thank You For Hearing Me" was a soaring staple where her pristine tones were aptly accentuated by the equally astounding venue (which doubles as the Chicago Symphony's Home). When it came to messages, the equality angled "Black Boys On Mopeds" was particularly poignant, especially due to chilling harmonies from O'Connor's female backers. But no matter what the topic or instrumental angle, the eclectic artist struck gold and connected in a such a magnetic way that appreciators and detractors would be unequivocally forced to find common ground.
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