By Randy Cohen
The last time The Cranberries played in San Francisco, it was in the summer of 1996. So you can imagine that fans of the Irish supergroup were just a little anxious on Monday night when the band came to The Warfield in San Francisco. It was one of about a dozen small venue shows leading up to a larger tour this summer that will include "Collective Soul" at the Shoreline Amphitheater . Lead singer Dolores O'Riordan bursted on stage with energy to spare.Unfortunately, the group, led by the commanding, pint-sized singer , didn't seem to acknowledge their fans and surroundings until a third of the way into the show. That's when they finally adjusted sound levels so O'Riordan's distinctive voice could be properly heard over the guitar attack of Noel Hogan (along with a second backup guitarist-vocalist) and the crashing drums of Fergal Lawler and his equally enthusiastic rhythm section partner, bassist Mike Hogan.
From that moment on, The Cranberries had most of the audience on their feet, singing, clapping, dancing and pumping their fists to material from all four of the band's albums, including their two-week-old release, "Bury The Hatchet". The set list was heavy on new material, but audience favorites the older songs like the dreamy Linger, the just-say-no-to-drugs-and-war anthems Salvation and Zombie show happy fans. The first single Promises, along with Animal Instinct, Shattered, Desperate Andy and Delilah. But the two new ballads, Saving Grace and You And Me -- both about O'Riordan's Toronto-born son Taylor -- struck a bigger emotional chord O'Riordan, dressed in a gold bustier (which showed off one tattooed shoulder), black leather miniskirt and matching boots. Whether it was turning up the house lights and shouting: "Sing it!" as she did on more than one occasion, or taking off her boots so she could move her tiny frame around the stage and work the room, O'Riordan was a fierce and engaging frontwoman. Although she alternated between playing acoustic and electric guitar and keyboards, she was at her best unencumbered by any instrument. (At one point, O'Riordan got so excited she forgot her microphone on Lawler's drum kit stand just, as she was about to launch into the first verse of the next song.) For all of the energy and spirit, O'Riordan can be forgiven for her odd encore outfit of pink cowboy hat, pale pink shirt and dress, pink boots and finger-less white gloves. The group was dwarfed by large, lantern-like props -- seven in all -- which made for a striking set, as different, complementary colors shone throughout the show. Concertgoers could only buy tickets to Saturday night's concert via the Internet. The show sold out in four hours, so I guess you could argue that that experiment worked.