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Cranberries prove enduring, endearing

(ran SS edition of Metro & State)

Dolores O'Riordan downplays her star status while shining on stage.

Dolores O'Riordan is an unlikely rock star. The lead singer of the Cranberries has made it known many times that the band as a whole is the most important thing. The music is a group effort.

Thursday's concert at the USF Sun Dome only made O'Riordan more the star in the audience's mind, however. The Cranberries performed a wonderful concert, but clearly it was O'Riordan, with her pitch-perfect singing and her waifish grace, who made the evening a memorable experience.

The show was the first stop in the second leg of the Cranberries' U.S. tour, and the band displayed clear signs of being fresh for the job. It has been four months since the group released its newest recording, Bury the Hatchet, which received lukewarm reviews. Their new material seemed to lack the gut-wrenching depth and conviction that established the band with previous recordings.

The critical question of the night was how much the Cranberries would draw from their latest release. Somewhat surprisingly, they drew from it quite a bit.

The group, originally from Limerick, Ireland, opened the show on a Celtic note and went right into its most recent single, Promises. A series of tunes from the new album followed, all endowed with a force that can't be appreciated on the recording. It wasn't the most catchy entrance the band could have made, but die-hards would have approved.

A casual listen through any of the Cranberries' recordings could not appropriately capture the gritty nature of the live sound. The quintet occasionally added a keyboard player, and even though the facility muddled the clarity of the lyrics, O'Riordan's voice proved to be the reigning instrument.

Displaying a great effort to listen through her ear monitor, she gave each Irish-influenced warble its due. The group's stage presence is understated, but with an amazing front woman, the Cranberries illustrate the difference between shows that entertain with quality and those that entertain with gimmickry. O'Riordan, who was plainly clothed throughout,garnered applause for her costuming when she kicked off her platform heels and started dancing _ all very conservatively.

After rocking the audience through crowd favorites such as Linger and Zombie, the band settled down to a more intimate and acoustic set, in which O'Riordan played a grand piano and the band members sat on stools. The show concluded with Dreams.

The Cranberries seemed perfectly coupled with their opening group, Collective Soul, which gave an improvisational touch to its catalog of music, with harder guitar solos and a crowd-pleasing version of Crazy Train.

After an excellent concert, it is clear that the Cranberries are still a remarkable band.

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