Sinéad O’Connor: Offering Up a Prayer Through Song

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How Its New York: An Irish singer with a gospel choir at Lincoln Center Festival 2013. Only in New York.SINEAD_SBerger (Small)
How Its Irish: A controversial, multi-platinum recording artist from Ireland, Sinéad O’Connor first came to popularity in the late 80s and has been topping charts since.

The line-up for the Friday July 26 concert at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall read as follows:

SINÉAD O’CONNOR: THE GOSPEL SESSIONS

with

Bob Telson, Composer of The Gospel at Colonus, Music Director,

and performers from

The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Soul Stirrers, and

The Inspirational Voices of The Abyssinian Baptist Church

Looking at that billing, its hard not to think, “How has this concert not happened before?”

To pair striking and controversial singer songwriter Sinéad O’Connor, the beautifully voice, critically acclaimed Irish icon who has courted controversy with the Catholic Church throughout her career, with some of New York City’s finest gospel musicians, including the famed Abyssinian Baptist Church, Blind Boys of Alabama and Obie-award winning composer Bob Telson for an evening of O’Connor’s hand-picked classic American gospel, seems like a concert that must have been 30 years in the making.  And not only that, but too good to be missed.

And it almost was, with a set list that included opening with “John the Revelator,”  and highlights such as O’Connor’s gorgeous rendition of “Amazing Grace” borrowed from Bryan Adams (“not miserable like [how it is sung] in Ireland,” she laughed), a surprising selection from Bob Dylan and a Curtis Mayfield encore.

But other soul stirring favorites, like “Down by the River,” where O’Connor was accompanied by the choir from the Abyssinian Baptist Church, felt like it could have benefited from a little more rehearsal time.  O’Connor, barefoot onstage in camo pants, sunglasses, and a giant cross around her neck, and surrounded by an impressive band consisting of Sam Butler, Jr. (guitar), Butch Heyward (Hammond organ), Ben Odom (Bass), Dana Shepard (drums) and Gene Stewart (vocals), was by all appearances ready to tear the roof off. But perhaps it was the newness of doing a concert of all gospel, offering her own prayer up as she remarked in an interview with Wall Street Journal, that left her a little shaky to begin with, coming off  at times as uncomfortable in the material. It wasn’t until a few songs in that she really hit it home, particularly in the songs that allowed her voice to take a bluesier, more soulful note. It was only then that she really began to own the material.  Perhaps it was just first night jitters, for there is something really powerful in the making with the evening of music O’Connor and her ensemble presented that night. Should the chance come around again to experience it, know that, surely it will truly be too good to be missed.

SineadSetList.

Sinéad O’Connor will be at City Winery this fall. 

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