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Smooth alt-rockers aim to please

It's hard to say what makes Snow Patrol so likable. Could it be the band's humble charm? The melt-your-knees dreamy accents? Or the sheer energy behind its guitar-driven pop? Whatever the reason, the sold-out audience at the Paradise Saturday lapped up the Irish boys' smart, sharp alt-rock.

Shaggy-haired lead singer Gary Lightbody crooned with superbly smooth vocals and just enough Irish brogue. He's an amiable frontman, dutifully pausing between songs to extend his gratitude to the crowd and the city. His rhythm section, featuring Paul Wilson (bass) and John Quinn (drums), provided a strong backbone to the band's increasingly radio-friendly sound and kept it from seeming too much like knockoffs of the Fray. Guitarist Nathan Connolly added complexity to Lightbody's vocal melodies and provided pitch-perfect harmonies.

Lightbody and Connolly weren't the only ones on vocal duty. Fans threw their hands in the air and cheered on such tunes as ''Spitting Games," the wallflower love song from the band's 2004 album, ''Final Straw," and sang along to previous hits ''Chocolate" and ''Run." At points, the audience carried the vocals entirely.

The focus of the show, though, was material from the band's upcoming release ''Eyes Open" (hitting US stores May 9). For the new songs, Lightbody and company didn't stray far from their established style -- high-energy guitar rock with a sensitive pop side. Opening act Republic of Loose was embarrassingly mismatched with the sensitive-rocker headliners. Singer Michael Pyro spent the set spewing lyrics not appropriate for a family newspaper in a painful attempt at falsetto. The group was going for Prince-style funk but ended up championing its own awful genre -- sleaze-rock.

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