Nothing compared to Sinead O’Connor as she commanded center stage at New Orleans’ Voodoo Fest on Saturday, October 27. Two years post Katrina, New Orleans is still struggling to reclaim its heritage and culture, and festivals like Voodoo provide a welcome escape and just plain fun. Considering that O’Connor began her career over twenty years ago, it was surprising that the youthful audience gave a cheer when the intro to the iconic “Nothing Compares 2 U” blasted over the soggy grounds. Rain pummeled the Big Easy and caused some minor flooding a few days earlier, and the city had still not dried out. Voodoo is a great venue. Even though the alcohol was flowing freely, security was not a big deal and the only overt police presence was a couple of NOPD officers on horseback. The audience was there to listen and have a good time.
And listen they did to O’Connor. The Irish poet and singer may have a prickly reputation, but her live performances come straight from the heart—honest emotion—a still strong and powerful voice that seems to reach deep inside for every note. In an age where singing seems to be a lost art, it was refreshing to hear an artist who can wrap her voice around each note and send it out there. The audience knew it and sent the emotion right back to her. New Orleans needed a little Voodoo magic and O’Connor delivered.
Musically, the arrangements were layered and complex, but blended perfectly into a performance experience that was clean and expertly supported by her back-up musicians.
Released in June 2007 on Koch Records, “Theology” is offered as a prayer—quiet, intense reflections of an artist’s personal journey. The Voodoo audience reacted in kind with rapt attention. A video clip From Voodoo Fest is available on her official website.
O’Connor and her management graciously offered us a short interview, which found O’Connor in a reflective, tired mood. Understandable, given her grueling touring schedule. Her response to questions about war and world events was a weary, “I don’t know.”
We had to go to her webpage to get more on her feelings about “Theology.”
“It is my own personal response to what has taken and is affecting everyone around the world since and including September 11, 2001. I want to be very clear - there is no message. No preaching. Nothing deep and meaningful the artist wants to say, nothing trouble making. I simply wanted to make a beautiful thing, out of something beautiful, which inspires me.”
O’Connor is not an activist these days and has totally embraced her artistry. Refreshing in the age of Brangelina, when actors and musicians with no knowledge of the deeper machinations of world events use celebrity to bolster their own narcissism. O’Connor is the opposite. Humble and somewhat shy when we met her, graciously posing for photos, when there was no reason for her to do so.
O’Connor has been called the Joan of Arc of music. On a sunny Saturday afternoon in October, she rode into Voodoo Fest with her artistic banner flying and laid claim as the maid of New Orleans.
Voodoo fest was the first music festival to return to New Orleans post Katrina last year.
The three-day festival began Friday on the grounds of New Orleans City Park and also will included a host of Louisiana act-- Theresa Andersson, the Hot 8 Brass Band, Ivan Neville and his band, “Dumpstaphunk,” Marc Broussard, Irma Thomas and the New Orleans Social Club.
(photos copyright G. Nienaber)