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Story and photos by Andy ArgyrakisThe name Dolores O'Riordan is most readily associated with The Cranberries, one of alternative rock's most vibrant forces from the mid-1990s through the early 2000s. Despite the band's break-up shortly after the turn of the century and members' relatively low profiles, the lead singer remained a celebrity of sorts throughout her homeland of Ireland and had a legion of followers all across the globe wondering what she'd be up to next. Though rumors of a solo career began circulating during the band's initial rise to fame, the singer/songwriter always stayed loyal to her first format of fame and took further time off since its demise to focus on family.
Yet as with most entertainers, the bug to bounce back re-entered the feisty front woman and she's followed in step exactly where The Cranberries left off on Are You Listening? (Sanctuary). Rather than trying to brush those roots under the rug and only focus on her current record (as several self-important solo stars in the making often do), O'Riordan wasn't ashamed of where she came from, so much so that she opened with a gusty rendition of "Zombie." In fact, she may have looked sweet and somber, but the former band leader is an aggressive rocker at heart, yelling as fiercely as fellow country woman Sinead O'Connor on her darkest day, while possessing a sound all of her own.
Those trade mark pipes continued with gusto as she alternated between new and familiar selections, unveiling the swirling atmospherics of "Angel Fire," the pleasant sounds of yesteryear "Ode To My Family" and then the empowering cries of "Human Spirit." The Cranberries' "Free To Decide" proved to be one the softer focal points of the show (paralleled only during the commercial standout "Linger"), but the intensity once again reached heavy handed heights for her bouncy original "When We Were Young" and the band's all out barnburner "Salvation."
After bowing out and spending an unusually long time waiting in the wings, O'Riordan returned to slap down the snarling fresh cut "Accept Things," placing her unique vocal twists over her four piece band's peppy chops. And she made it feel like 1993 all over again with the magnetic "Dreams," which despite its age could still compete with anything on modern rock radio. Even though her latest record hasn't found as fervent of a home in the airwaves' ever changing scope, Chicagoans and attendees from the eleven other cities on her limited American/Canadian tour can likely vouch for her significance and continued star power beyond the band.
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