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Queen of Controversy 

click to enlarge Sinead O'Connor will perform at the Bardavon in Poughkeepsie on October 21.
  • Sinead O'Connor will perform at the Bardavon in Poughkeepsie on October 21.

The uncompromising Sinead O’Connor has done it again, but this time it’s not quite as shocking as some of her past stunts. She’s just released her tenth studio album, Theology (Koch)—featuring a crop of Bible-based original hymns—and she’s receiving equal amounts of praise and criticism. You can judge for yourselves, though, as she’s sure to perform a few of her prayers at a WDST-sponsored concert at the Bardavon on October 21.

Let’s recap some of her jaw-dropping “transgressions.” At 15, O’Connor’s shoplifting and truancy led to reform school, then boarding school (where she recorded a demo, two songs of which appeared on her lauded 1987 debut album The Lion and the Cobra). Early in her career, she made controversial comments about the radical Irish Republican Army and slammed U2. In 1990, O’Connor was scheduled to perform at the Garden State Arts Center but refused if the national anthem was played. (“A country which imposes censorship on artists [is] hypocritical and racist,” O’Connor said.) After her performance, she was banned from the venue and several radio stations.

She refused to appear on a “Saturday Night Live” show hosted by comedian Andrew Dice Clay, whom O’Connor labeled a misogynist. Her most well-known stunt was also “SNL”-related—in 1992, she shredded a photo of Pope John Paul II onstage while singing the word “evil” during an a cappella version of Bob Marley’s “War.” An unwise career move for O’Connor, as she was booed and heckled in subsequent performances, her records were destroyed, and she was again banned from radio stations. In a 1997 interview, she begged the Pope’s forgiveness, but when asked several years later if she would change anything about the incident, she replied, “Hell no.” Around the same time, she was ordained as a priest by a Catholic splinter group to protest the prohibition on female ordination. O’Connor took the name Mother Bernadette Mary.

In 2000, O’Connor came out as a lesbian, but soon after changed her mind, stating, “I’m three-quarters heterosexual, a quarter gay. I lean a bit more toward the hairy blokes.” She announced her retirement from music in 2003, only to bounce back two years later with the reggae album, Throw Down Your Arms. She’s also had four children by four different men, and let’s not forget her shaved noggin, angry expression, and freaky clothing.

Now that we’re up-to-date on O’Connor’s controversies, let’s get back to her latest release. Of the new double album, she says, “Theology is an attempt to create a place of peace in a time of war. It is my own personal response to what is affecting everyone around the world since September 11, 2001. I want to be very clear—there is no message. No preaching. Nothing deep and meaningful, nothing troublemaking. I simply wanted to make a beautiful thing.”

And beautiful it is (listen for yourself at www.myspace.com/sineadoconnormusic.). Disc one consists of minimal and acoustic tracks, while the second features full-band arrangements with harp, strings, horns, and percussion. Though seemingly religious, the album’s anthems focus primarily on emotions: agony, gratitude, loneliness, and anger. In O’Connor’s search for redemption, she appears to be saved at last.

Sinead O’Connor will perform at the Bardavon, 35 Market Street Poughkeepsie, at 7pm on Sunday, October 21. Tickets range from $35 to $55 and are available
through WDST or the Bardavon. (845) 473-2072; www.wdst.com.

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