Janice SP

photo: Janice Gordon-Stockman

At the end of Snow Patrol's Run the house lights go up and shine across a packed SSE arena. Every hand is in the air. Both hands. Every voice is blowing their lungs out. I am thinking this should be Northern Ireland’s National Anthem. 

Later in the set Chasing Cars has similar effect. When it ends and the crowd go wilder, than the wild they are during the song, I sense something more than an ovation for a pop song. This is a city, a country even, pushing out its chest with pride to acknowledge that our boys have written two of the best rock songs of the last twenty years. Belfast celebrates Snow Patrol’s genius!

If you want to see U2, Dublin is probably best. For Snow Patrol it’s being in the hometown crowd as Gary revels in being home. It’s more electric than the other shows. When they sing Take Back The City for instance, only a Belfast crowd is in the city of that song. When Lightbody does a solo acoustic song I Think Of Home he is singing about our fields, our streets and our Granny!

Tonight I raised my respect for Lightbody’s songwriting even more. I became acutely aware, as the gig went on, that this is our modern Heaney and Morrison. With those guitar shuddering shapes that Nathan Connolly throws and Jonny Quinn’s pumping beat it would be easy to lose the poetic subtlety of Lightbody’s songwriting touch. I imagine most, in various levels of inebriated states (we should have to pass a test to be a gig goer!!!), do!

I didn’t. With my wife, I am more aware with each passing day of a need to find our place to lie with each other and forget the world. My life’s greatest deep place is described so well in Heal Me - 


I call out your name it feels a song

I know so well

And it whispers and roars like an orchestra

You call out my name

Like no one before

It sounds like I am called to a home that I never had


With my girls beside me Run became a song I want them to sing in the last days and hours of their father’s life, just as Janice and I held hands and wept through it in the same venue nine years ago as Janice was losing her mother. 

I’ve already mentioned the Belfast songs. Right through until the final encore and their biggest anthem statement of Just Say Yes Snow Patrol not only celebrates but soothes the wonderful but wounded soul of Belfast.

From the personal to the family to the neighbourhood, they go beyond that and in Life On Earth I hear a cry for resilience in the midst of a world in a state of chassis at our time in history:


It shouldn't need to be so fucking hard

This is life on earth

It's just life on earth

It doesn't need to be the end of you, or me

This is life on earth

It's just life on earth


Forgive the language, theirs not mine, and let that rocket to your soul. These are hard times but we can live and thrive through it.

That is something else that comes through tonight. The new songs from Wildness are, as I thought, among their very best. They all sit strong, and indeed popular with the crowd, among the hits and old favourites. 

Maybe we will eventually discover that the best one of all is the first encore, What If This Is The All The Love You Ever Get. It is beautiful and in this communal experience I was drawn to the fact that it is almost a secular sacramental call. As I was planning to invite my community of faith to the Lord’s Table the next morning I couldn’t help but hear Jesus calling us:


What if it hurts like hell

Then it'll hurt like hell

Come on over, come on over here

I'm in the ruins too

I know the wreckage so well

Come on over, come on over here


Spiritual and emotional love and healing in the camaraderie of our brokenness! Oh I will use it soon in Fitzroy for sure! 

I have a couple of negatives. Martha Wainwright’s video appearance on Set the Fire To The Third Bar didn’t work and a live Miriam Kaufman would have been stronger. Also, something about the size of the sound didn’t reach back as far as me in the arena. Nathan’s riffs that usually slam my kardia, while Gary’s words tickle my thoughts, weren’t shaking my core. I was watching a brilliant gig rather than being in the middle of it.

That said, my chest was out too. This was great stuff, These were our boys. Just say yes!


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