As they bombarded Belfast with the most potent and powerful rock onslaught that I have experienced since I saw the U2’s Vertigo arena tour in Vancouver back in 2005 I couldn’t help but think that this is the best time and place to see Snow Patrol. Belfast is always the best place to see Snow Patrol. For Gary, Nathan and Jonny this is home and home has rarely recognised a band as their own as much as Belfast has with these onetime indie misfits who grew into what we have tonight, an arena filling swan of rock’s mainstream. Belfast has always come out in numbers, always sung along and Gary Lightbody has always played up to it even writing Take Back The City about the city’s past, present and future.
Take Back The City was one of those early adrenaline blasts that these guys used to explode out of the night. It was as they went boom, boom, boom with strutting rock riffs and anthemic choruses that I realised that the strength of a rock band’s set can only increase by the quality albums they have released. Six records in and this band have now enough songs to grip an audience for the allotted hour and forty five minutes. Tonight Snow Patrol not only played at home and had the songs to play but their experience of the arena has grown. Lightbody’s ease with himself is evident as he sings more and more without a guitar. Connolly is a shape throwing visceral guitar hero. Jonny Quinn and Paul Wilson hold a steady as well as creative back beat groove and Tom Simpson recently joined by Johnny McDaid add all kinds of swathing and flourishing grace notes. Never have this band been more ready and never have the more delivered.
Setting off in attention grabbing mode and ending the same, the middle section is a risk with a general audience but reveals that new songwriting talent that Lightbody has become. More sleight of hand great melodies than foot stomping kardia thud new songs Garden Rules and New York, encased splendidly in Set The Fire to The Third Bar, with local girl Shauna Tohill filling in marvellously for Martha Wainwright and Miriam Kaufmann, and Make This Go On Forever. Lightbody even dared say that he thought Garden Rules was the best thing the band had done until now. Then it was back into the hits and the kardia grab until the Celtic techno of Fallen Empires with Nathan Connolly’s mandolin and a drum orchestra took the whole thing out. The audience singing was another highlight if predictably so on home soul. Run and Chasing Cars would now have no need of Lightbody singing at all but Belfast was in voice throughout.
What becomes apparent to me as this gig sweeps too quickly towards its end is the positivity of Snow Patrol. There is a lot of heartache and frustration and difficult social scenarios in their songs BUT their message is one of heart-open-taking-back-just-say-yes affirmation of love and life. Gary Lightbody doesn’t claim Bono’s spiritual anchor though he does sing that “On my knees I think clearer” and yet the band end gigs with more than songs. Tonight’s epic performance of Fallen Empires with the congregational chant of “we are the light, we are the light...” send out a positive vibe to a generation that need it. Then Just Say Yes as the encore closer in a city and country that was famous for saying No is a another subtle preach of positivity:
“Just say yes, just say there's nothing holding you back
It's not a test, nor a trick of the mind
Even the “For God’s sake dear” doesn’t have any sense of blasphemy but every hint of prayer. This is more than a good concert, it send something good out into the city tonight!
(loads more Snow Patrol articles in their own section on this blog)