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Camille O’Sullivan’s a remarkable force of nature

Dreaming: Camille O’Sullivan

at the North Wall Arts Centre, Oxford

on Friday, February 9 and Saturday 10

Review by JON LEWIS


An architect by training, O’Sullivan has designed her set for her Dreaming tour like a post-modern boudoir, a glowing rabbit light, a neon heart and the word love in lights, and clothes horses adorned with the heads of a cat and a dog.

She’s dressed in a frilly red dress, and tights with holes in, apologising that she looks nothing like her poster.

If the staging is sumptuous, it’s her voice and delivery that are outstanding.

Many of the cover versions curated by O’Sullivan are either overtly about dreams and dreaming or they allude to a visionary or sleepy state.

Her rendition of Liam Gallagher’s All You’re Dreaming Of sets the tone for an emotional show which includes three melancholy songs by Nick Cave, Jubilee Street, Sun Forest and The Ship Song, part of which she sings powerfully without the microphone.

O’Sullivan changes her clothes or her shoes as she makes each song a spectacle.

She uses her hands expressively, imploring, jabbing, and pointing, even running her fingers along the keyboard of her long-time musician Feargal Murray.

One song is particularly poignant recalling two great Irish singers who died last year whom she knew well, Shane MacGowan and Sinead O’Connor.

Duetting with Murray for MacGowan’s 1986 song Haunted which he recorded with Sinead O’Connor in 1995, the song suggests other ghosts as it was written for Alex Cox’s movie Sid and Nancy about the doomed punk lovers Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen.

O’Sullivan’s moving renditions of Leonard Cohen’s Famous Blue Raincoat, set on New York’s Clinton Street, and Tom Waits’ Take It With Me, set in Coney Island, are both about protagonists who fall asleep.

Half-French, O’Sullivan’s version of Edith Piaf singing Jacques Brel’s The Port of Amsterdam feels authentic, heartfelt and full of local colour.

O’Sullivan’s a remarkable force of nature.

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