First published Apr 29 2012 12:30AM Updated Apr 29, 2012 12:30AM
As high school students celebrated prom next door in the Union Pacific Building at the Gateway, those over 21 were treated to another jubilant expression of love at The Depot Saturday night.
The Northern Ireland-based pop-rock band Snow Patrol headlined the sold-out venue with its offering of love songs in a satisfying 90-minute set — songs of heartfelt devotion that would not seem out of place at a high school prom. Indeed, it's a good chance that "Chasing Cars" was played by the prom D.J. as awkward kids slow-danced with their hips as far away as possible from one another.
If the band was younger and from a non-descript suburb of central Florida or California's Orange County, Snow Patrol would be considered "emo." If they were significantly younger and possessed fewer loud guitars, they would be a boy band.
But even though the men in the band are approaching their 40th birthdays, seemingly simple songs to their beloveds filled out the set list as a few of the better songs off of the band's most recent album "Fallen Empires" were mixed in with fan favorites from the band's career, such as "Run," "Shut Your Eyes" and "Take Back the City." What's so funny about peace, love and understanding?
The last time the band was in the area, Snow Patrol headlined the much larger McKay Events Center (now called the UCCU Event Center at Utah Valley University in Orem). Although The Depot is smaller, the band brought a full array of colorful lights and a high-res screen that are marked improvements over the usually sparse amenities that other bands bring to shows at The Depot. But with nine high-powered lights at the crest of the stage and six spotlights from the rafters over the band's heads, the arrangement impressed — and coupled with The Depot's superior acoustics (compared to the cavernous echoes that reside inside the UCCU Center), the crowd was treated to a great show.
As is the case with most bands, frontman Gray Lightbody was the visual focal point, although his gaunt frame, polo shirt and bushy head of hair don't bring to mind sexual deviants like Axl Rose or Mick Jagger. But visually he matches the songs' narrators, who thinks nothing of wearing his heart of his sleeve. When he wasn't leading the six other musicians onstage with his black guitar (with a bold sticker emblazoned with the word "Celt" on it), Lightbody frequently held out one hand to the audience, as if to connect in a communal, visceral way. The show's opening song was "Hands Open," and that song established the theme early on. Lightbody told the crowd early on that he was having vocal problems, but for the most part his voice was clear and robust, although as the night wore on it seemed more strained.
Quibbles I had with the show included not just one but two false starts by the band that visibly agitated Lightbody, who stopped the song and implored the band to start over. Some might view this as the professional way to do things, but a little rawness and go-with-the-flow attitude could have helped the band seem more loose.
But overall, the band's set of catchy anthems full of loud-soft dynamics was affecting. I have probably heard "Chasing Cars" more than 1,000 times on the radio, but when the band exploded into the final choruses the moment became near-transcendent.
The mood of the night was heightened by one of the better opening acts I have seen in a while, 21-year-old English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran, who is fast becoming a big deal in Britain and seems poised to make an impact here. Sheeran was all by himself on stage with just a small acoustic guitar and a live-looping set-up. Looping is becoming commonplace to many singer-songwriters, but Sheeran (who shares a name with an accountant I know) always put the song first and used the looping to help the song, rather than adding elements just for the sake of seeming experimental. He has a soulful voice that he used to full effect on an a cappella rendition of the traditional "Wayfaring Stranger," but is also a rapper with a quick Twista-like style that fits in well with his more up-tembo beat-boxing loops. When he appeared later in the show to duet with Lightbody on Snow Patrol's "New York," he was welcomed warmly by the crowd.