(…) It’s upsetting to watch, but this is one of the great “Fuck You” moments in popular music history. Instead of just leaving the stage, she rubs the audience’s face in what she had done. Her bravery is astonishing. 

What crime briefly made her the most hated woman in America? She had the audacity to protest the way the Catholic Church, all the way up to the top, had overlooked and covered up the sexual abuse of children. Years later, we’d all learn just how right she was. But at this moment, almost no one was on her side. Imagine how lonely she must have felt up there. A singer at a tribute to Bob Fucking Dylan is booed off the stage for an act of protest against the rich and powerful’s role in the exploitation of the weak and invisible. It was a different time. We were just about to come out of 12 years of Reagan and Bush I.

So true. I’m forever on Team Sinead for this and the SNL performance. I recently torrented the original SNL episode, and it’s absolutely stunning how silent the crowd was after she tore up the Pope’s photo. Not a gasp, not a boo, not a cheer, nothing. Just stunned silence. I think Tom Shales’ book mentions that Lorne Michaels ordered the episode’s director not to turn on the “Applause” sign when she did what she did. Apparently she tore up a different photo in the run-through? Can’t quite remember.

A couple other reactions bear mention: Tim Robbins, that evening’s host, didnt’ even acknowledge her in the good-nights. Didn’t even look at her or mention her name, and she’s standing right next to him. Tim Robbins! Then it got worse the next week, with Joe Pesci. His “hey I taped the photo back together” stunt was fine, but then he said, “if it was my show, I’d have gave her such a smack!”, at which point the audience applauded. Seriously. A round of applause for a man threatening physical violence against a woman who had made a gesture trying to draw attention to child abuse in the Catholic church. Crazy.

Again: Team Sinead forever. When she walks away from the mic after the above performance, she seemed absolutely fine—no doubt still on a high—until Kris Kristofferson grabs her in his unnecessarily paternalistic way (I think he said “don’t let the bastards get to you” or something?), at which point she seems to break down. Which makes sense.

Also: what a voice.

February 27, 2012