There seemed to be one thing on Sinead O’Connor’s mind at her Roundhouse concert: the death of Robin Williams. As soon as she arrived on stage she dedicated her entire set to the actor, then later more specifically two songs: a devastating I am Stretched on Your Grave followed by a new song, 8 Good Reasons, about why she feels that life is worth enduring.
The ever open singer has been frank in the past about her own mental health struggles. These days, at 47, she seems as forthright and confident as she’s ever been, calling her new album I’m Not Bossy, I’m the Boss. Despite her much publicised criticism of Miley Cyrus last year, she appears on its cover looking quite the pop starlet herself in a sharp Jessie J wig.
On stage she was a more familiar figure with black vest and shaved head, stamping with bare feet, singing so powerfully that she frequently turned her face away from the microphone. The subdued backdrop of I Had a Baby allowed her extraordinary voice to soar, while In This Heart showcased her warm harmonies with the two other women in her band.
The inevitable Nothing Compares 2 U was presented unfussily. Elsewhere the focus was on this week’s new album and its 2012 predecessor. Most artists of her vintage will do the hits and an apologetic smattering of new stuff. O’Connor’s fresh material, especially the intense piano ballad Streetcars, was deservedly front and centre.
She did more negotiating with her sound man than interaction with the audience, but did strip to her bra to put on a Gaza T-shirt thrown from the crowd – what she claimed was her first ever costume change. So she’s still moving forward spontaneously, reacting honestly to whatever is in front of her. For that, we can treasure her.