A standing ovation welcomed Sinéad O’Connor as she walked on stage at The Vogue Theatre in Vancouver for her first performance in the city in 25 years. The voice of consequence launched into “Queen of Denmark” and instantly justified every person on their feet in the chockablock room.
Off the crowd’s energy, O’Connor let out a cheeky laugh mid-song in a moment that could be considered an extremely subtle variant of call and response—or at least what is at the heart of it; the lines of communication were flowing both ways all night.
The musician, barefoot and dressed in a black hijab and abaya, let the performance speak for itself. There was no merch and no opening act. O’Connor barely spoke—she’s quite shy, she did admit. She constantly turned her cheek to distance her voice from the mic, employing restraint that magnified its strength.
The room was stunned into pregnant silence one minute, then dance-jumping the next. In a profound moment, the stage cleared for O’Connor to sing a cappella. Her two guitarists joined her in a harmonic rendition of “In This Heart.” She had the room moving ecstatically for “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” while “Nothing Compares 2 U” absolutely stopped hearts and breaths for a few gorgeous, searing minutes.
“It’s great to be back in Canada,” O’Connor hollered sincerely at one point. The night’s crescendo of musical heartbreak and hope were at a peak. “You are the best audience in the world!” She did get another standing ovation at the end—the third one—but really, it was all her doing.