Snow Patrol / Sept. 26, 2006 / Los Angeles (Wiltern Theatre)
During numerous points in Snow Patrol's 80-minute set Tuesday, frontman Gary Lightbody raved about the California sunshine. Yet in the first of two shows at the Wiltern, it wasn't the sunshine but a hDuring numerous points in Snow Patrol's 80-minute set Tuesday, frontman Gary Lightbody raved about the California sunshine. Yet in the first of two shows at the Wiltern, it wasn't the sunshine but a hero's welcome that Lightbody and his four bandmates basked in.
Apparently nothing can keep Snow Patrol down. Last year, after its U.S. breakthrough with the single "Run," the band split with co-founding bassist Mark McClelland. It could have derailed lesser acts, but Snow Patrol carried on, recording "Eyes Open," which topped the U.K. album charts upon its release.
With the single "Chasing Cars" featured prominently on the second-season finale of ABC's "Grey's Anatomy," Snow Patrol seemed primed for a U.S. takeover. But in early June, three dates into its summer tour, Lightbody lost his voice, postponing the trek until this month.
The only trace of Lightbody's vocal problems Tuesday was in his apology for the postponement. While the tour's delay could have sabotaged the band's momentum, just the opposite has happened. "Chasing Cars" is lodged in the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100.
With its moody anthems, Snow Patrol has garnered comparisons with U2 and Coldplay. The band even has toured with the former and seems to have learned its lessons well. From the opening of the show, when the stage was bathed in dramatic red light, to the energetic closer, Snow Patrol performed with the confidence and power that recalled both bands. Musically, Snow Patrol doesn't sound quite like either act, but it similarly mixes aching melancholia and chiming minor-key guitars and somehow makes it all sound uplifting.
Those who know the band only from "Chasing Cars" likely were surprised by its energy, volume and catalog of quality songs. And those who came to hear the hit weren't disappointed. Lightbody and company wheeled out the song -- which could very well be the prom ballad of '07 -- relatively early in the set. Fog filled the stage as Lightbody announced, "This is for love." With the crowd clearly on his side, he stepped away from the microphone, allowing the audience to sing the song's final lines.
As good as "Chasing Cars" was, "Shut Your Eyes" was even better. Propelled by bassist Paul Wilson's sinewy grooves, the song sounded like a lost '70s classic. Another highlight was a guest shot by opening act Martha Wainwright, who reprised her recorded duet with Lightbody on "Set Fire to the Third Bar," a song that's as weighty and moving as Sia's "Breathe Me."
While Lightbody might not have the charisma of Saint Bono or even Chris Martin just yet, he proved Tuesday that he's well on his way. When he sung without a guitar, he displayed interesting contortions and showed he has the power to get the crowd to sing or clap along with a single gesture. Snow Patrol isn't a life-changing act yet. For now, it's just a pretty damned good one.