Editor's Note: We are resharing this piece, originally written in 2018, in the wake of Sinéad O'Connor's death, which was confirmed by her family on July 26, 2023.
On October 16, 1992, two weeks after she tore up a picture of the Pope on “Saturday Night Live,” Sinéad O’Connor performed at Bob Dylan’s 30th-anniversary concert at Madison Square Garden in New York City, despite boos from the crowd.
O'Connor, just 25 years old at the time, was introduced on stage by American singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson.
The crowd grew loud when O'Connor approached the microphone, forcing her to pause a moment. Kristofferson came on stage and gave her an encouraging embrace.
When the piano player started Dylan’s gospel classic “I Believe in You," the boos only grew louder, prompting O'Connor to wave to cut the music.
She then emphatically launched into an a capella performance of Bob Marley's "War," the same song she sang on "SNL" when she tore up a picture of Pope John Paul II in a sharp criticism of the Catholic Church.
When the song was done, O'Connor offered a defiant look to the audience. She turned to exit the stage and appeared to break down crying, but Kristofferson was there again to embrace her.
In retrospect, there can be nothing but admiration for O’Connor’s bold stand, coming at a time when child sex abuse by priests and cover-ups by bishops were unknown. Now she would be hailed as a heroine for blowing the whistle and for taking such a stand in front of a crowd of people turned against her.
To add insult to injury, when the CD of the concert was released, her performance had been completely erased from the evening. (However, in 2014, her rehearsal track of "I Believe in You" was included on the remastered deluxe edition.)
Despite this, she was the most-talked-about person the next day. A report from the Chicago Tribune stated she had “overshadowed performances by Eric Clapton, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, George Harrison and Dylan, among others. And she didn’t sing a note.”
Neil Young had followed O’Connor on stage that evening and told the Tribune the following day, “She dealt herself a couple of hands, and the deck was stacked against her when she went out.
“In New York City, if the crowd is feeling something, you’re going to find out about it immediately.”
Young's manager, Elliott Roberts, said: “We all felt sorry for her, because she’s not malicious or evil, just very young.
“When the crowd started booing, she overreacted. She should have gone ahead and done the Dylan song.”
*Originally published in 2018. Last updated in July 2023.