The story of the Cranberries is one of dogged survival. Debuting with a maiden release that everybody seemed to rate as a portent of great things, the band suffered not only a "difficult" second album but also an absolute stinker of a third one, as the bandmembers strove desperately -- too desperately -- to live up to their reputation for sensitivity and thoughtfulness, and completely lost sight of their true virtues in the process. Internecine squabbling, health problems, and general disaffection all took further toll, so much so that, as the band prepared to release its fourth album, 1999's Bury the Hatchet, many observers were shocked to learn that the band even existed any longer, let alone was capable of actually making a new record -- especially one that was as good as Bury the Hatchet turned out to be. Filmed at the Paris Omnisport de Bercy on December 9, 1999, toward the end of that album's accompanying tour, Beneath the Skin captures the full 84-minute concert performance, with the band ranging and, occasionally, raging through a veritable greatest-hits collection. The 22 tracks date back to the shimmering beauty of the Everybody Else Is Doing It era, fast forward through the highlights (and there were a few) of the two albums that followed, and then climax with eight cuts from the new record, including an opening salvo of "Animal Instinct," "Loud and Clear," and "Promises" that restates Hatchet's own defiant kickoff. The filming and sound are superb, but the real benefits of this DVD are found amid the bonus material. A lightweight but nevertheless entertaining band documentary is joined by a handful of clips from past Cranberries triumphs, including live and MTV performances dating back to 1993 (a stunning version of "How"). Promo videos for all three of the Hatchet-era singles are included, while there's also a collection of photographic stills and more. It's not the easiest DVD to navigate through -- the menus were designed by Hypgnosis artist Storm Thorgerson, with all the intricacy that suggests. But even when you can't quite get to what you're searching for, you're more or less guaranteed to find something just as good to look at.
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AllMusic Review by Dave Thompson