Sunday, March 25, 2007

Snow Patrol w/Silversun Pickups, 3.23.07

It’s nice to see notoriety is sitting well with Snow Patrol.
After nearly a decade under the radar (in the U.S., anyway), the Irish quintet seems rather unfazed with its newfound success stemming from last year’s breakout hit “Chasing Cars.” Frontman Gary Lightbody was pleasantly down to earth Friday night at American University in D.C., making self-deprecating jokes and charming small talk in between songs during an excellent 90-minute set.
The handling of “Cars” was particularly impressive. Lightbody acknowledged the song’s import to the band, as it “may be the reason many of you are here tonight—and that’s fine, we’re glad to have you.” SP put the song in perfect position at seventh on a 17-song night; they didn’t use it right up front as a cheap way to grab people’s attention, but didn’t let it hang around unplayed for too long, either, dangling it in front of those in the audience who only knew that one song.
Even for the latter, they would have to be deaf and dumb not to come away from the show with a better appreciation for this band. Queue the setlist (found below, thanks to a poster on their UK message board—I wasn’t taking notes for a change) on your iPod and you’ll find an absolute powerhouse lineup, with winner after winner after winner. It’s not often I go to a show and get every song I wanted to hear, but Friday night was one of those rare times. From “Run” to “Somewhere a Clock Is Ticking” to “Shut Your Eyes” to the awesome closer “Hands Open,” the band was tight and forceful all night, and the sound was perfectly mixed.
Of the many highlights, certainly one of the best was D.C. native Valerie, who did an admirable job of filling in for Martha Wainwright on the duet “Set the Fire to the Third Bar.” Lightbody pulls a woman from the audience every night to sing with him, and he seemed genuinely impressed with Friday night’s lucky fan—and with good reason, because she basically nailed it.
The stage design was impressive without overpowering the music. In fact, it seems the band picked up a little something from U2 while opening for their fellow Irishmen, as the Patrol had a miniature version of U2’s light curtain that allowed images to be displayed on it.
Snow Patrol is playing larger venues these days thanks to “Cars,” but they didn’t seem uncomfortable or out of character in the least. In fact, you’d think mid-sized college gymnasiums would be a bad place for a show (AU’s Bender Arena holds about 5,000 people). But on the contrary, I’ve seen three concerts in the past year and a half in these size venues, and they’ve all felt and sounded great. There’s something about a college campus that lends itself to good concerts—and it’s not just because a bunch of kids are there, because Snow Patrol’s audience ranges from those younger and older than me. It was just a good vibe all night.
Of course, it helps when the opening band commands the stage and arrest everyone’s attention so effortlessly.
Even though I put Silversun Pickups’ “Rusted Wheel” on my “Songs of 2006” list, I should have written about them in more depth by now because this L.A. quartet is one of my favorite bands of the moment.
Lightbody dubbed the group’s debut album, 2006's “Carnavas,” a “masterpiece” from the stage Friday night. That may be overstating a bit, but it is tremendous. I’m not going to rush to compare the Pickups to anything, because they offer a singular sound—gritty and harsh, yet soaring and beautiful all at the same time, especially when lead singer/guitarist Brian Aubert hits his upper register.
The band was spectacular Friday night, steadied by terrific bass work from Nikki Monninger; rarely have I seen an opening band—especially the first of three groups on a bill—win over a crowd so quickly. But that’s the nature and appeal of the Pickups, with their loopy melodies that go from mellow to thrashing in the blink of an eye. They played one of the best six-song sets you’ll ever see Friday night—too bad they had to make way for the mediocre OK Go. They’re not bad, really, and the crowd seemed to dig them, but I’m just not into the whole jokey vibe they put off. Still, after the performances from Snow Patrol and Silversun Pickups, it’s not like I came away disappointed.

Snow Patrol
Bender Arena, American University
Washington, D.C.
Running time: 90 minutes

Spitting Games
It’s Beginning to Get to Me
Headlights on Dark Roads
How to Be Dead
Grazed Knees
Chasing Cars
Shut Your Eyes
Set the Fire to the Third Bar
Somewhere a Clock Is Ticking
Make This Go on Forever
Ways and Means
You’re All I Have

The Finish Line
Open Your Eyes
Hands Open

Silversun Pickups
Running time: 30 minutes

Well Thought Out Twinkles
Rusted Wheel
Dream at Tempo 119
Little Lover’s So Polite
Kissing Families
Lazy Eye

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