Cranberries Club Set Mixes Motherhood, Politics

Irish band returns to stage after three-year hiatus.

NEW YORK -- Back on the road after a three-year break -- the

longest they've ever taken -- Irish pop-rockers the Cranberries on

Wednesday showcased new songs reflecting singer Dolores O'Riordan's

motherhood and old ones restating her political passions.

The show at the Hammerstein Ballroom was the fourth on a club tour that

began a week earlier in Washington, D.C., and is scheduled to continue

through the middle of May. It's in support of the band's fourth album,

Bury the Hatchet, which entered the Billboard 200 albums

chart this week at #13.

After releasing three albums in three years, the Cranberries took a

vacation after their 1996 tour for To the Faithful Departed,

which was cut short after O'Riordan suffered a leg injury. The album

went platinum but was nonetheless the band's weakest-selling. During the

break, the energetic, yodeling lead singer became a mother.

"This song I wrote just before I gave birth to my son," she said

Wednesday, introducing the beautiful new "Saving Grace."

"I can't wait to see your face/ It could happen here today," she sang,

softly moaning the words as she rolled her eyes upward, as if seeking

divine assistance.

The four-piece band was augmented by a keyboard player and an additional

guitarist. The Cranberries played most of the songs from Bury the

Hatchet along with such crowd-pleasing hits as "Ode to My

Family," from No Need to Argue (1994) and "Linger," from

Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can't We? (1993). Despite the

long layoff since the previous tour, they displayed a hard-rocking

tightness.

Some fans worried that a maternal O'Riordan would mean boring Cranberries.

"I'm a big fan [and] I've seen them twice in concert," Suzanne Cerabone,

26, of New Jersey, said. "But the baby might give [O'Riordan] a

different perspective. [The title] Bury the Hatchet sounds like a

huge transition."

Motherhood notwithstanding, the pounding rhythms provided by shirtless

drummer Fergal Lawler and the Hogan brothers -- Mike on bass and Noel on

lead guitar -- propelled O'Riordan as she ran around the stage,

violently whipping her shoulder-length hair around. She was dressed in a

black pants suit, and that hair, natural black when the Cranberries

first came to prominence, then blond, then black again, was back to

blond.

The band opened the show with three songs from Bury the Hatchet,

and by the time they got to the chorus of their upbeat new single,

"Promises," much of the capacity crowd was on its feet and many were

screaming "Dolores."

During "Animal Instinct"

(RealAudio excerpt), the new album's opening track, O'Riordan, who had

stripped down to a glittery tube top, crouched slightly and made a

clawing gesture as she sang. For other songs, she strapped on a red

guitar and waltzed around the stage looking like a strolling minstrel.

O'Riordan, who has a sweet, resonant voice, introduced "Loud and Clear,"

a tongue-in-cheek kiss-off to a lover, by saying, "This is a bit of a

sarcastic baby." Her yodel-like "eh-ee-ohs" were as prevalent as ever,

sometimes taking up more time and space than her lyrics.

O'Riordan's motherhood was the subject of a few new songs, whose

personal touches made them stand apart from some of her earlier, more

strident tunes.

But the band played those, too, during a 90-minute set that mixed quiet

moments with high-energy hits such as "Salvation"

(RealAudio excerpt), during which the crowd's fevered swaying suggested

the atmosphere of a heavy-metal concert. The band closed the main set with the 1994

hit "Zombie," about an Irish rebellion. As the house lights came on, the

club echoed with the chorus' "in your head" line.

"You guys are rockin'," O'Riordan said. "This has been such a great

concert."