As the canon of rock classics has shaped up for the new millennium, its rich tapestry has a large hole where the decade of the Eighties should be. For the era of Reagan and Thatcher was for the most part the era of synthesised radio-friendly pop, with Prince and Madonna as its twin figureheads, and the likes of Bruce Springsteen succumbing to stadium-sized bombast and, even worse, 'production values'.
Whatever pleasures the decade of Mick Jagger and David Bowie's 'Dancing in the Streets' afforded, they tended to be finessed sonically, and often sartorially, to within an inch of their lives. Three artists whose heyday it was were back playing in London this week.
The folk-rock star Tracy Chapman rose to fame in the late Eighties on the back of her raw, quavering vocals, and tonight she stuck religiously to the script. The hits in the shape of 'Fast Car', 'Talkin' 'bout a Revolution' and 'Baby Can I Hold You' " all from her splendid 1988 debut album, Tracy Chapman " were mixed with material from the prosaic new album Where You Live.
There was a surprising cover of Nirvana's 'Come As You Are', and a beautifully rendered version of Dylan's 'Knocking on Heaven's Door', here a serene, jazzy number that benefited from some sumptuous guest vocals from Carly Simon's son, Ben Taylor. Chapman remains a compelling performer, and in her hit 'Fast Car' she has a song every bit as exquisite as anything by the Boss.
Chapman's sturdy effort was nothing compared to Sinead O'Connor's eccentric stint. The shaven-headed, 36-year-old elfin singer was introduced by dub giants Sly and Robbie as 'Sister Sinead O'Connor', and took to the stage wearing an outfit not dissimilar to that of Hare Krishna practitioners.
The audience's cheers gradually gave way to bafflement, as it became clear that this was going to be a night of unbroken dub, with a multitude of honourable mentions to Babylon, Jah (God) and Marcus Garvey. …