RTE's 'Dolores' documentary review: 'illuminating, elegiac and often funny'
“I didn’t want to be like any other band, I just wanted to be Dolores – and that worked.”
A month after her tragic death at a shockingly young age, the great Dolores O’Riordan was remembered in Dolores, a collection of interviews, live footage and promo videos from the 1990s.
Dave Fanning, one of The Cranberries’ earliest advocates, showed care and sensitivity in choosing and editing this footage, presenting a rounded portrait of a huge musical talent and sweet-natured young woman trying to make sense of it all. Zipping back and forth in time throughout that decade, the programme was illuminating, elegiac and often funny. Here’s how it went:
We began with an interview to promote Bury the Hatchet, the band’s fourth album, in which Dolores spoke about getting her life back, as an individual, as opposed to world-famous rock-star or tabloid caricature. She talked about being pregnant, hanging out with old friends, and saying a necessary goodbye to the madness of mega-stardom.
Cute and amusing footage of her, Noel, Mike and Fergal, reminiscing on Dolores first joining the band. Right from the start, Fergal said, her stuff was “amazing”. Some months later, we saw The Cranberries playing Zombie on the Late Late. Dave himself was interviewed by Gay Byrne, before presenting them with a Golden Disk for Irish sales of their debut album. And also in the same year, Dolores spoke of her rural Limerick upbringing, her parents, singing in the local church. Ode to My Family, she said, was “about trying to escape from the pressures of reality and just be a kid again”.
Remembering the madness of the early part of that decade: “It was just totally beyond my control,” she told Dave. “A lot of people around me couldn’t believe that. (But) I had a lot of demons and nightmares.” She’d joined The Cranberries while still in Leaving Cert, and recalled touring “in an old bread van”, sleeping across the legs of the lads in the band.
The lads, she said, used to miss their wives and girlfriends on tour. They’d get up to harmless hi-jinks, like stealing each other’s socks – “typical boy stuff”, according to Dolores. Noel drolly remarked of younger brother Mike, “I went to work before he did, so I bought all the CDs – he just robbed them.”
The band played the David Trimble/John Hume Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. Dolores met Phil Collins, Alanis Morrissette, Morten Harkett from A-Ha. She said, “You get used to it”, of flying around the world from her home-base in Limerick.
Dolores grew up listening to showband music, she told us, so she “didn’t know anything about rock ‘n’ roll music”. In the end, as a professional singer, this helped: “I didn’t want to be like any other band, I just wanted to be Dolores – and that worked.” She was never a part of any “scene”, adding that this would then make some people think she was weird and “start writing crap about you, which I think is very sexist.”
Performing Ave Maria with Pavarotti – a special moment. “That kind of singing,” Dolores commented, is more restricted and more naked.”
She discussed domestic life with (now ex) husband Don Burton, on a stud farm in Kilmallock, Co Limerick, close to her beloved mother “and best friend”. Dolores said, smiling, “You can really unwind…I feel very safe there.”
The show finished with the lovely doo-wop sounds of When You’re Gone, playing over a montage of Dolores throughout the years – all those cool hairstyles! – the song which had been simultaneously played at noon, during her funeral, on every Irish radio station. A suitably poignant tribute to a rare talent, as was this programme.