Review: Snow Patrol bring arena-sized passion to Jannus Live in St. Petersburg
You just know Gary Lightbody has always had arena-rock dreams.
His band, Snow Patrol, sure seemed headed toward arenas in the mid-2000s, when the Meredith Grey-approved Chasing Cars became a No. 1 hit. But somehow, despite pumping out a succession of rousing albums, each one grander and more yearning than the last, the Irish-Scottish rockers never quite crossed over to the rarified air of American arenas.
Instead, their latest tour, in support of new disc Fallen Empires, brought them to Jannus Live in St. Petersburg, their first trip to Tampa Bay since a State Theatre gig in 2005. (Ever charming, Lightbody said the band barely survived the triple-digit heat: "It's lucky we got out of Florida alive," he said.)
The sold-out, slam-packed venue showed the lads an eager reception as singer Lightbody -- ever smiling, gracious and agreeable to the warm Sunshine State air -- led them in a round of rousing adult-contempo anthems.
Snow Patrol came out guns-a-blazin' with the foot-stomping 2006 shredder Hands Open, and the way Lightbody paced and beat his chest at the lip of the stage proved he has more on his mind than just making your girlfriend weep. Fallen Empires is a rhythm-driven album, and the new songs that worked best live were passionate and percussive, such as the New Wavey In The End, the bouncy Called Out In the Dark and the ominous, chugging title track, which drove forth like a reckless, runaway train.
Granted, Snow Patrol's slower songs -- such as New York and, yes, Chasing Cars -- can be a wee bit snoozy at times. (Exceptions to the rule: Slow-burner Set The Fire to the Third Bar and the lyrically lovely Lifening.) The group wisely confined most of these to the middle of their set, choosing to end with a run of mostly upbeat singles: The bass-thumping Shut Your Eyes, the blazing crescendo of Open Your Eyes, the always delightful Chocolate, which showcased lead guitarist Nathan Connolly's simple yet effective chops.
The closer, Just Say Yes, couldn't have been a more earnest plea for the crowd to rip their hearts from their sleeves and leave everything on the floor: "For God's sake, dear, just say yes!" Lightbody begged, taking a seat at the foot of the stage to look the audience in the eyes.
Clearly, Snow Patrol has the arena-rock thing down pat. Now all they need is an arena.
Opening the show was acoustic singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, a budding star in his native England who's developing quite the cult following here in America, too (there were a few homemade "Mrs. Sheeran" T-shirts in the crowd).
If you've heard only one song by Sheeran, it's probably his breakout hit The A Team, a weepy bit of Damien Rice-like balladry. But the redheaded, bed-headed Sheeran has more in common with coffeehouse pop crossovers like John Mayer and KT Tunstall, what with his jammy, loop-driven leanings. Scatting and beatboxing on dancehall-flavored songs like Gimme Love and You Need Me, I Don't Need You, he not only covered 50 Cent's In Da Club, but also invoked West Side Story in goading the crowd into a sing-along. So gangsta!
The crowd mobbed Sheeran when he left the stage to sign autographs and take pictures near the merch table. Don't be surprised to see him back here soon -- only this time, he'll be headlining.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*
SNOW PATROL SETLIST
1. Hands Open
2. Take Back the City
3. Crack the Shutters
4. This Isn't Everything You Are
6. In The End
7. New York
8. Set The Fire to the Third Bar
9. Make This Go On Forever
10. Shut Your Eyes
11. Chasing Cars
13. Called Out in the Dark
14. Fallen Empire
15. You're All I Have
17. Open Your Eyes
18. Just Say Yes