December 11, 2005

O’Connor brings impassioned vocals to reggae tunes

Sinead O'Connor

By Frank Scheck

NEW YORK (Hollywood Reporter) - Although the spectacle of a
waifish, doe-eyed, shaven-headed white woman singing roots
reggae might be incongruous, Sinead O'Connor overcame any
reservations in her concert Friday night at New York's Webster

Forgoing her past material to concentrate solely on
Rastafarian-themed numbers, including every song on her new
self-released CD, "Throw Down Your Arms," the Irish songstress
managed to put her stamp on the music.

Not that she was taking any chances. Accompanying her for
the two-hour show were Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare, the
classic production team/rhythm section who collaborated with
her on the album, and reggae legend Burning Spear, who wrote
nearly half of its tracks. Sly and Robbie also performed a
rousing half-hour opening set showcasing their distinctive

Delivering classic numbers written by the likes of Spear,
Lee Perry, Peter Tosh and Bob Marley, O'Connor stayed faithful
to the original versions, with only slight shifts to
accommodate her voice. The results, while not particularly
revelatory, are undeniably impressive, with the singer's
impassioned vocals and spiritual conviction adding a new
dimension to the music.

Still, lacking the deep-voiced power of some of her
predecessors, she sometimes was overcome by the loudness of the
musicians, particularly the boisterous horn section. Thus, she
shone brightest on the opener, "Jah Nuh Dead," delivered in a
stark arrangement showcasing her voice, and such numbers as
"Untold Stories" and a slowed-down "Rivers of Babylon," for
which she was accompanied by only a pair of backup singers and
acoustic guitar.

Her deep commitment to the material was evident on songs
like "Vampire," for which, alternately shouting and dancing in
place, she seemed to enter a trance. But her more playful side
also was displayed on Perry's amusing (and, in her case,
ironic) "Curly Locks" and Tosh's "Downpressor Man." She
introduced the latter by saying, "This one's for the ladies."

Anchored by Sly and Robbie on drums and bass, the band was
absolutely tremendous, laying down one sinuous rhythm after
another. Spear, providing vocal and percussive support, also
served as the evening's cheerleader, constantly rousing the
crowd with the exhortation, "Talk to me, people!"

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter