She made hits, now she's making a name

The Cranberries' lead singer goes solo, to acclaim.

Dolores O'Riordan was the voice behind the mega-selling Irish pop band The Cranberries - a voice that sold millions of records without many fans' even knowing her name.

Only 19 when she landed the plum role of lead singer and lyricist for the Limerick-based band (via an audition), O'Riordan's potent shades-of-Sinead vocals made international hits of songs like "Linger" and 1994's chart-topping "Zombie," about Northern Ireland's so-called troubles.

Dolores O'Riordan performs tonight at the Fillmore at the TLA. Her solo album, "Are You Listening?", has been critically praised.

When the group quietly disbanded in 1999, O'Riordan seemed to quietly disappear as well - but not really, as she'll tell you. While her focus turned toward raising her children, the diminutive singer-songwriter kept her hand in music, showing up sporadically on artsy projects by Italian rock crooner Zucchero, composer Angelo Badalamenti, and German dance pioneers Jam & Spoon.

"I did things that were fun for me," she said by phone from Greece, where she was on tour with her four-piece band. "Challenging as well, but not pressure-filled."

O'Riordan, now 35, recently reemerged as more than just a guest artist, releasing a critically lauded and highly personal solo album, Are You Listening?, a record she made "without expectations."

"The more success, the more pressure you acquire," O'Riordan said. "But when you step away from it and focus on other things - in my case, being a full-time mom - the pressure goes away. Music became a hobby to me again; something therapeutic and fun."

Not that she isn't pleased with critical kudos for her solo effort: "It's quite lovely, actually, because this [record] had my heart in it; it was a strong personal statement."

Now, with her solo career finally launched, O'Riordan's happy to bring old and new to her concerts.

"I play a lot of stuff from my own album, but there's Cranberries songs, too," she says. "To sing 'Linger' or 'Dreams' now, well, it's all lighthearted and filled with good memories."

Dolores O'Riordan, with Jessie Baylin, at 9 tonight at the Fillmore at the TLA, 334 South St. Tickets: $35. Phone: 215-922-1011.