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all words: Travis Andrews, all photos: Franz Mahr

The Cranberries are one of those bands that hold a special place in the heart of almost anyone who is familiar. Chuck Klosterman once wrote that every man goes through a phase, be it for a day or forever, during which Led Zepplin is the only important rock band on Earth. In that vein, I venture that almost everyone has, wittingly or not, caught “Linger” when s/he was in an emotionally fragile/receptive stage and just sort of slumped down and had his heart so prominent on his sleeve, it looked like a damn tattoo. The moment when no other song would quite get it.

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Some time back, after a particularly devastating breakup, I found myself sitting around in my boxers, a bottle of gin close at hand, playing the only PlayStation 2 game I owned –God of War—while listening to Everyone is Doing it, So Why Can’t We? on repeat. I’m not particularly proud of this fact (nor, do I think, was my roommate). But it’s stuck with me, and the second I hear Dolores O’Riordan’s voice, the taste of gin, slow crush of heartbreak and the button combination to double-wielding a big ole’ hammer, come rushing back.

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Which is exactly where I find myself as the band opens with a one-two punch of “Dreams” followed by “Linger.” It’s an odd choice since it only leaves the band’s other #1 “Zombie.” And it proves tragic: a couple of girls who have noticed my notepad ask me late into the show “Did they play ‘Dreams’ yet? We were five minutes late, but they were playing ‘Linger,’ so I assume its’ in the chorus.”

Never seen such heartbreak.

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About the Band: Things to know: a) The Cranberries, formed in 1989, is still a band. Took a hiatus from 2003 to 2009, but it’s pretty impossible to tell as they play incredibly professionally (if not a little bit by-the-books). b) Dolores O’Riordan, wearing a long-sleeved black sequined top with razor-cut raven’s hair and black eye shadow is a stunning woman, a fact not hurt by her smoky, sexy Irish voice that, live, sounds just a notch below album-quality. I venture that she has my favorite voice in music, if not of another human being. Gotta wonder who the fool was who kept breaking her heart so much. The band is dressed like everyone in it was popular in the 90s, and O’Riordan favors a funny little jig where she kind of runs in place and windmills her hands, adding a goofy aspect to pretty sad music.

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About the Crowd: Not sure what I expected from the crowd. I think a lot of aged Reality Bites Winona Ryder look-alikes, but it’s actually incredibly diverse. A higher quotient of older folks are here and a bunch of almost frat-like guys who probably “never listen to The Cranberries” but privately know every incidental sound on EIDISWCW and also want to marry O’Riordan’s voice (have we gotten this progressive yet? Please?)

There’s some backing-track action going on, but I can’t tell exactly how much. There is an odd moment during “Linger” where she gives an “Oh” that’s cut off but the mic is nowhere near her mouth.

Fairly predictably, the crowd reacts rabidly to everything off the pre-reunion albums but is lukewarm toward those off Roses, the new records. The band seems to know this, though, and keeps a steady mix going. I recognize at least half of the songs, and I only know the one album well.

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Side note: Just met a woman who claims to have given O’Riordan a massage yesterday. Claims our Irish singer is the “most down-to-Earth, friendly woman ever.”

The band plays so professionally, but every member save our girl seems completely replaceable. None of the members move much, putting me in mind of studio musicians. She leads the crowd though, and she’s sweet too: Just told all of Washington, D.C. that we have really great voices, a decided lie.

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Speaking of the crowd, the older folks here seem to have a different type of concert-etiquette. It involves a lot of grabbing and touching. Going out on a limb here to say most of that grabbing and touching is “unwelcome.”

It’s about 10:45 when the show wraps up, and the final song is the one everyone’s been waiting for, the third #1. For some stupidly pretentious reason, I’ve been ready to roll my eyes at the moment, but I’m not sure why. “Zombie” utterly destroys. It’s devastating in its volume, the way it should be, and the crowd is so right there with it, pushing it up a sonic level while the strobe lights attack like mad. It begs the question, “What will be played in the encore?” but this moment is worth it.

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And sure enough, the encore, in which she comes out with a elegant sleeveless black top showing off her tattoos, isn’t too exciting of the crowd. In fact, many being filing out before it’s over, having heard the songs they came for. Interesting for a band that’s been around for so long to not save one big hit for the encore, but my guess is everyone’s simply tired of playing them after so many years. She said they wrote “Linger” as teenagers, and now her son is a teenager.

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A great show for hardcore fans, but The Cranberries isn’t the most dynamic band on Earth. Happy to have seen it, but next time I’ll wait until I have a shattered heart, a good bottle of Bombay Sapphire and an old video game. That’s where The Cranberries make the most sense.

At least to this writer.

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