Taking to the stage in Hyde Park Book Club’s grungy basement, Irish fashion designer turned performer Sinead O’Brien transformed a dull Sunday night into an incredible display of punk poetic excellence. It is clear O’Brien takes influence from punk icons such as Patti Smith and Mark E. Smith, so it was only apt for her to walk on stage to the driving guitar riffs of The Fall’s Blindness. Clad head to toe in leather, O’Brien looked every part the performer, owning the stage with a confident ease, effortlessly performing her poetry over the crashing of drums and heavy guitar. Despite the set being relatively short, each track was performed with enthusiasm and intensity from Sinead and her two band members –Julian Hansen on guitar and Oscar Robertson on drums. The tracks sound excellent on record, but their live versions were even more impactful, as Sinead delivered lengthy lines of poetry without a second thought, and her band thrashed their instruments, creating a totally immersive atmosphere.
Sinead and her band debuted a few new tracks, including the stand-out song of the whole performance, entitled Like Culture, which O’Brien told us often gets called Dance! by fans. This instructive line is sung before a heavy drum beat thumps seismically through the crowd with funky guitars to back. This track gave a very promising look into the sonic direction O’Brien’s music will take. The set ended with her Speedy Wunderground single Taking On Time, which was the perfect closer to a set that mixed popular singles with spellbinding new tracks.
After the performance, O’Brien moved straight to the merch stand to sell her own t-shirts, tote bags, and pins whilst chatting with excited crowd members. She had an incredibly warm and inviting energy, leading my friends and I to chat for her for a while, as she explained to us the importance of making her merch ethically. She stated that she loves performing in intimate venues where the audience can come very close to the stage and asked us what it’s like to watch someone in such a close proximity, (mid-way through the gig she had asked everyone to come closer). Of course, standing so close is intense and intimate, but also the best way to experience the poetic genius of Sinead O’Brien live.