The Cranberries, Richard Walters
Alisha Ahmed 31/03/2010
The Cranberries are crystallised in a time when guitar solos were not cut in the radio edit version, but on the contrary they could actually make the song. A whole generation has grown up with Zombie and Free to Decideand I might argue we grew up quite well... maybe better than those who followed us.
The four of them, just as it was back in 1991, are still there and inexplicably look just as young as they did when they played their last gig together in 2003, before the hiatus and solo projects embarked upon by Noel Hogan, Fergal Lawler and Dolores O'Riordan herself. Believe it or not, Hogan actually looks even younger if that is possible and in spite of the 'technology' jumps which brought us circular stages, screens and lighting effects we would not be able to imagine this was 10 years ago; the show The Cranberries are currently bringing around Europe is as clean and sober as it was in the late 1990s. They never were much into stages and truth be told, they never needed to be. They were the music and Mrs O'Riordan was the show. If you think Lady GaGa had the outfit flick out of thin air, I dare you to check the 2/3 outfit that Dolores used to wear to each show, with the added value that she could rock them even without the backup dancers.
If I hadn't known better I would've said last Wednesday, 31st March, the Royal Albert Hall had been the stage for a time wormhole which was looking directly towards 1995 and that first performance The Cranberries did on this very same stage, gifting the crowd with the same energy and the beautifully crafted music. Back then it was labelled rock, now it would be called indie but in truth is the same result of chords put together very well. The kind of quality they are representative of seems to have become too much of an option nowadays but here is wholeheartedly acknowledged and rewarded if you think they managed to sell out the Royal Albert Hall in less than one week back in September, with just a lonely poster outside the venue as the only promotion for this show. They make me remember fondly the times when bootlegs were still CDs and tapes secretly exchanged between hardcore fans, and not really a cleverly commercialised item for the fans to buy after the concert has ended. It must have been pretty clever since they haven't release an official album since they parted ways with Universal in the early 2000s, yet they are managing to currently sell thousands of copies of this live show via Concert Live.
Talking about the performance, they've always had a talent for picking an intro tune that would make people seriously anxious and emotional waiting for them and they did not lose that trait either, even if the crowd of the Albert Hall did not need much of an encouragement to feel excited about The Cranberries playing in the UK again after their last performance at the Hammersmith Apollo in 2002. And beside the energy springing out from them, the thing that is most impressive is the natural way O'Riordan engages with the public, as if she felt the need to show how much she feels the connection, by thanking each and every one of them, at least in the first rows. I have always had a fascination for this kind of behaviour and the hands shacked and the kisses blown really weren't wasted on this adoring crowd, which got rewarded and showered by most of the successes that defined The Cranberries during their career, from Linger (the first they wrote together) to a couple of the songs coming from O'Riordan's solo project.
The support slot for this London date was provided by one of the most (wrongly) overlooked talents of the UK, Richard Walters, who I became used to describe as the English Jonsi due to his amazing voice and heartbreaking melodies. Walters is such a jewel in the crown for the London scene I was most thankful to find him playing in such situation, in the hope that more and more people will find out about his beautifully melancholic music. He stays mostly in the shadows (quite literally, no limelight was pointed on him during all the time he was on stage) and when introducing a new song (which will come into his next album, following the 2009 release of his debut The Animal) felt the need and humbleness to point out "well I know most of these songs sound new to you anyways".
All in all, it was a true experience being there to witness one of the best bands of the '90s still rocking the way bands should still do, but I am afraid to say that the Cranberries might have been one of the last bands able to both reach their degree of fame without getting being too affected by big and bigger venues and charts numbers. They haven't turned now into the true indie band, because truth is, they always kind of were. In any ways, I am glad I had been given the chance to witness that kind of quality in music that is rarely still available to bands of that (supposed) level.
Pictures credited to Mattia Sarzi Madidini.