By Andrea Domanick
It was a balmy, tranquil evening Saturday atop the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas’ Boulevard Pool, a night perfectly suited for the warm, sweeping sounds of headlining Irish rockers Snow Patrol.
For a band that has only recently started to pick up mainstream steam in the U.S. (2011’s “Fallen Empires” debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard 200), the venue was impressively packed, with fans staking out space right up to the edges of the venue’s back pools. Indeed, the mixed-bag crowd, which ranged from college Greeks to hipsters to parent-child duos, was a testament to Snow Patrol’s nearly two-decade evolution from prominent indie favorites in the U.K. and Europe to radio-friendly headliners the world over.
Their set attested to that evolution, as well. It was a tight hour of songs that touched equally on emotive early favorites like “Run” and “Spitting Games” from 2003’s breakout “Final Straw” to the more sweeping bravado of more recent tracks like “Fallen Empires” and “Called Out in the Dark.” The latter two hinted at a new grandeur and confidence in Snow Patrol’s sound that borrows in no small part from the percussive soundscapes popularized by Brits Florence + the Machine.
There were no fewer than six musicians (and at times more) crowding the modest stage to helm a kitchen sink variety of instruments that included a piano, multiple guitars and a kettle drum. Still, the sound was clear and perfectly mixed, a testament to the venue's in-house sound team and Snow Patrol's prowess as musicians. Even in the back reaches of the venue, where much of the crowd succumbed to chatter, the songs' gauzy guitars and frontman Gary Lightbody’s breathy vocals were still audible.
At times, the band's new stadium-friendly sound, dazzling light show and crowd singalongs made them seem more like Coldplay Jr. than Snow Patrol. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, at least if you’re a Coldplay fan, but Snow Patrol should be careful to avoid the pretension and grandeur the former has affected over the years.
There were hints of that ill-suited swagger Saturday night. For example, several songs were accompanied by video projections of soaring 3D-animated eagles and swirling geometric shapes, which were about as inspiring as a screensaver from 1998. Then there were Lightfoot's overeager attempts to get the crowd to clap and sing along, though most folks seemed perfectly content to just take in the music; moreover, there was just something disenchanting about seeing a band treat a yearning, heartbroken song like “Chocolate” as it were an upbeat festival anthem.
Still, you can’t really blame them for chomping at the bit of success -- or for just wanting to have a little fun onstage.