We’re the same age, me and her, give or take a few months. But we’ve led completely different lives. And while I might have had a poem or two written about me in my day, Kris Kristofferson has yet to write a song about me. I’ve been described as a lot things but never a ‘bald-headed brave little girl’. For one, my hairstylist put paid to my life ambition to shave my head telling me that mine is very oddly shaped and it would look comical rather than cool.
Sinéad O’Connor played MUPA last night as part of the Budapest Spring Festival. She appeared on stage in jeans, a red shirt, a sailor cap, and a pair of sunglasses. She told the almost-packed venue that she was wearing the glasses because she was shy and didn’t want to see us looking at her. If she loosened up, she might take them off. She didn’t. And she didn’t. mmmm… not quite what I expected.
I grew up on Sinéad and her antics and respected her for her willingness to put herself out there and speak her mind, no matter how often she was misunderstood or castigated by the press. She has a stunning voice – one that doesn’t need mixers or back-up, one that is best heard solo and last night’s concert proved that. And I always thought her stunningly gorgeous – right up there on my list of the world’s most beautiful women.
Mixing problems for the first few songs meant that I didn’t hear a word until she launched into Jackie. Another surprise. I’d thought it would be all songs from her latest album and I wasn’t quite expecting this oldie from the eighties. I was a little taken aback at her choice of Black Boys on Mopeds – and wondered what the Hungarian audience would make of the lyrics:
England’s not the mythical land of Madame George and roses
It’s the home of police who kill blacks boys on mopeds
And I love my boy and that’s why I’m leaving
I don’t want him to be aware that there’s
Any such thing as grieving
Her rendition of In this heart was goosebumpingly great and showed her at her best. And yet the lyrics, when added to those of the rest of the song list, suggest that she’s seen better days. Far from the feisty, outspoken, star of the 1980s, the Sinéad we saw last night seemed far more subdued, anxious, and … strangely dependent. It was odd, upsetting even. Her Thank you for hearing me nearly had me in tears as I watched her almost palpable resignation from the gallery. When did this happen? What have I missed? Where has her life force gone?
She played for an hour and apart from a series of ‘thank yous’ after each song that ranged in strength from matter-of-factness to bare whispers, and one stray ‘oh bollox, never mind’, she said nothing. When she returned for a two-song encore – the crowd were not going anywhere until she did – she apologised (?) for not saying much while on stage. She said that this was because she’s an idiot and what she says is idiotic and that this was because she has these – pointing to her boobs. I can only hope that she was being sarcastic but I wouldn’t swear to it.**
Were I to guess, a lot of the audience had turned up on the strength of the one song that rocketed her to international fame, a song, she said, that she was finally putting to bed and would sing for the last time in Budapest, never to sing it again. To hear her sing the classic Nothing compares to you, live, and for the last time, was worth the ticket price and more. But it was sad, so sad, to see Sinéad almost apologising for being … well… Sinéad.
We’re the same age, give or take a few months. I grew up with her and admired her tremendously for her spirit. Her album Am I not your girl ranks on my list of favourite albums of all time, particularly her rendition of Black Coffee. And I miss what she once was. Okay, so MUPA isn’t exactly a Sinéad-type venue; had she been playing to a tented crowd at Electric Picnic, perhaps it would have been different. I’m glad I went though. And I’m glad I heard her sing live. And I’m glad that she’s still singing.
** Yes, she was. Whew. Check out her FB page and see that she’s still as spirited as ever – must have been the venue and the fact that the gig was being filmed for a live album. Faith restored.