Monday, January 15, 2018

Remembering The Cranberries singer Dolores O'Riordan 1971-2018

photo: Armando Brown
I covered The Cranberries' reunion tour in Dec. 2009 for the OC Register. It ended up being the final time I caught them live, having seen several shows in the 1990s and early 2000s. The review is below...

Family has always played an important role in the Cranberries’ lives and music.

So it’s no surprise that the seeds for their reunion tour were planted last January when singer Dolores O’Riordan received an honorary doctorate from Trinity College in Dublin. She invited former bandmates Noel and Mike Hogan (guitar and bass, respectively) to help with an acoustic set at that event. It was the first time they’d played together in six years.

This past summer, the brothers and drummer Fergal Lawler also attended a confirmation ceremony for O’Riordan’s son. After meeting their collective 11 children, she realized time had passed too quickly and decided the perfect time to regroup was now. A tour for her just-released solo album No Baggage was scrapped and the Irish band decided to start up shows in America.

It was during the mid-’90s that the Cranberries’ mix of dreamy yet raucous and Celtic-tinged rock, often heightened by politically charged lyrics, made the biggest impact here. A mainstay on KROQ, the quartet racked up eight Top 20 singles on modern-rock radio and three multimillion-selling discs, including their second effort, No Need to Argue (1994), now certified seven times platinum.

Before doors opened for Friday night’s sold-out gig at Club Nokia, one usher mentioned that some rabid fans had waited in line at the L.A. Live entertainment complex since early afternoon. Talk about dedication and pent-up demand.

The last time the Cranberries played the area, at the Greek Theatre in July 2002, they seemed to go through the motions. Not this time around; there was a distinct joie de vivre that informed O’Riordan’s performance.

Taking the stage to ominous intro music like what you hear inside Space Mountain, the band launched its 21-song, 85-minute show with the frantic “How.” The pixie-esque vocalist, her hair back to black (she’s a redhead on the cover of No Baggage), wore a sheer black outfit and high-top sneakers.

Half of Friday’s set list was drawn from the Cranberries’ first two releases, including their beloved 1993 debut Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We? The rest of the selections touched on everything except (oddly) 2001’s winsome Wake Up and Smell the Coffee. Before a dramatic “Animal Instinct,” O’Riordan, 38, noted how time flies – she wrote that song in grade school.

The gorgeous “Linger,” one of the breakout tracks from the band’s debut, was dashed off early. Tour keyboard/guitarist Denny DeMarchi triggered the swelling orchestration and provided welcome background support all evening by bolstering the sound and enriching vocals. An Irish flag was hoisted by people in the crowd and everyone swayed along.

Although O’Riordan had no trouble hitting the high trills and Celtic-influenced vocal runs, she occasionally relied on the old annoying habit of strongly prodding fans to sing verses or choruses. Moving from acoustic to electric guitar, she and the band followed the lush, entrancing “Dreaming My Dreams” and doo-wop-styled “When You’re Gone” with the intense “Daffodil Lament.” Though heightened by her banshee wails and Lawler’s militaristic drums, it gave way to a jangly finish.

Among the concert’s many highlights were the plaintive “Ode to My Family” and a tension-filled “Pretty,” the latter inspiring the singer to indulge another sprightly dance. Keeping with the family theme, O’Riordan frequently extolled the joys of motherhood and procreation between songs.

The Hogan Brothers basically kept stock-still until a set-closing trio of rockers: the frenetic “Salvation” whipped the crowd into even more of a frenzy; O’Riordan sang “Ridiculous Thoughts” flat on the stage floor, then ran across it a few times; and the big hit “Zombie” still packed quite a grungy wallop.

Come encore time, the band changed things up a bit with an acoustic “Empty” (Lawler played bongos) and “The Journey,” the second solo tune of the night from the impressive No Baggage. O’Riordan recalled how 1996 was a dark year for her, but luckily people “pulled me out of the hole; love is to be cherished.” The Arabian-accented tune and soaring vocal vaguely recalled John Farham’s 1986 Australian chart smash “You’re the Voice.”

Finally, the band ended on a fun, shimmering note with “Dreams,” with O’Riordan doing a jig and impressing with her amazing vocalizations based on the traditional Irish sean nos style. All told, the Club Nokia gig was a welcome return. Let’s hope the band’s promise of new songs in the future materializes.

My review and the photo originally appeared at

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