SNOW PATROL - DISTANT BELLS

BREATHE... DEEPLY IN THE SILENCE

Breathe

The theme of this year's 4 Corners Festival is Breathe... In the intensity of the times we are inviting everyone to take a deep breath and join us in our explorations of mental health, prayer and embodied breath, racism, abuse, creation care, and more. Help us breathe out hope in troubling times.

This song came to mind as I pondered the festival's theme. We had the privilege last year of having a Gary Lightbody interview as part of the Festival. This Snow Patrol song uses breathing as a way to find equilibrium in difficult moments.

I think that this is one of Belfast band’s most complete song. The stripped down version on BBC Radio 2: The Piano Room reeks out even more poignancy. It takes the emotional tenderness of Run and Crashing Cars, gives it that Snow Patrol anthemic swell and then adds the ingredients that make it a song for a healthy soul.

It is very much a pastoral song in my idea of that entity. That first listen came at a time when a good friend was going through a dark night of the soul and all I could think about was that this was everything I wanted to tell her. I immediately linked it with U2’s Stuck In A Moment but felt that it went further and deeper.

Keeping it in my friend’s scenario, Bono speaks about the situation itself and asks my friend to look beyond the moment, see beyond the horizontal walls pressing in and rise above the moment to see a more hopeful future. I think that that can be good advice, and I have used it, but Gary Lightbody’s lyric hits a deeper spot.

Lightbody targets my friend’s life itself and asks her to look not at a wider perspective of time beyond the moment but at a wider perspective within herself right now. She is more than this one dimension of her soul that is being oppressed. This heartache, deep and damaging as it is, is only part of who she is. Focusing on the other aspects of her life might be that which keeps her on her feet to find that happier day: -

“Then in one little moment

It all implodes

This isn't everything you are

Breathe deeply in the silence

No sudden moves

This isn't everything you are

Just take the hand that’s offered

And hold on tight

This isn't everything you are

There's joy not far from here

I know there is

This isn't everything you are.”

There is that practical advice that gives a nod to this year's 4 Corners Festival theme.  In the midst of whatever is sweeping over us there is a warning to not to do anything rash. I have used this with people in the midst of dilemmas that are straining the relationship between their head and heart. "Breathe deep... No sudden moves". Breathe in... breathe out... feel the breathe of God... find calm and ease your way through whatever it is with prayer and reflection until you find all those other more wonderful things that you are.


BRADLEY QUINN - SNOW PATROL: 25 YEARS IN PICTURES

Screenshot+2019-11-28+at+01.36.07 QUINN

I have been following the photographic career of Bradley Quinn for almost as long as I have been his drumming brother Jonny. I remember him putting a portfolio together of photos of Belfast’s finest mid 90s artists like Iain Archer, Brian Houston, Ursula Burns, Disreali Gears and the New Brontes. 

I even got lucky myself. One afternoon Iain and Jonny were short of a bass player for a press photo and I joined the band for a 5 minute photo shoot! It is framed on top of my CD shelves!

As I have followed Iain Archer’s career and Jonny’s with Snow Patrol I have so enjoyed seeing Bradley’s camera work on videos and photographs.

Snow_patrol_28 QUINN

So, I was thrilled to see that for the 25th Anniversary of Snow Patrol Bradley had produced a coffee table sized book of some of those photographs.

It is better than that. It is a near perfect visual history of the band. Being a friend of the band has not only given Bradley access but also longevity. In Snow Patrol: 25 Years in Pictures you get an array of different faces of Gary Lightbody, from the short hair to the beard to the long hair.  You also get the changes in band personnel. It’s a celebratory history. 

Fans will love this collection. Here are the photographs that your smartphones cannot dream of catching. Bradley’s friendship gives him access that few professional photographers can dream of. There are angles in studio and stage that are unique to him and then the candid shots when a band has a photographer in their faces without them even realising. 

Candid shot QUINN

Of course intimate access is one thing but good photos is quite the other. The good news is that Bradley Quinn can take a photograph and whether it is Main Stage or tour bus or the band just having a back stage laugh, Quinn has catalogued the 25 years of Snow Patrol in as creative and artistic way as the music.   

 

BUY THE BOOK HERE


SIGNS OF HOPE - 4 SNOW PATROL BAND MATES AND JESUS

SP Paramo

photo: Paramo

(So, I am sitting calmly at a 4 Corners Festival event last evening listening to the amazing poetry of Damian Gorman and the songwriting of Anthony Toner and I get a text to remind me what I had completely forgotten... I was on Pause For Thought with Vanessa this morning on BBC Radio 2. AHHHH!!! Panic! Thankfully being three days into a festival I knew there were enough resources to find a thought. I chose this one as the them was Signs Of Hope)

 

I love American Christian activist Jim Wallis’s line - “hope is believing in spite of the evidence and watching the evidence change”. 

Last Friday night I had the privilege of interviewing Gary Lightbody, front man in Snow Patrol whose Chasing Cars is the most played song on British radio in the 21st Century, in front of 400 people at the 4 Corners Festival .

Gary is a warm charming and authentic human being. He has been very honest about his mental health issues in the past and he told us an amazing story. In his worst days, he had isolated himself to an apartment in LA. Things had got so bad that he had stopped answering texts or emails. His band mates were thousands of miles away in the UK. He was cut off.

At this darkest moment there was knock at his door. He found enough courage to answer and there outside his door were those four band mates - Jonny, Jonny, Nathan and Paul. They knew the evidence was not good and so they acted to make the evidence change. 

The story has been a dog at my heels all weekend. It won’t leave my mind. How inspirational and challenging is this story of 4 best friends bringing hope in a hopeless place.

The great hopelessness of our modern world is isolation. So many people are isolated and hopelessness comes on its coat tails. 

I have come to believe that the greatest Christian word might be WITH. Jesus had this other name Emmanuel which means “God with us”. We use it a lot, thinking about Jesus birth, at Christmas. 

Rev Sam Wells has written books about how Jesus spent 30 years of his 33 years on earth of his life just BEING WITH people. No miracles, no stories, no preaching just being with... 90% of his life.

Maybe that tells me the importance a God of hope puts on friendship, relationship, connection. Today, wherever I go there are people feeling hopelessly isolated. Just a hello, a pause to listen, a knock at a door might make all the difference. In spite of the evidence maybe I can be, like Gary’s band mates or like Jesus coming to earth, signs of hope doing my bit as I watch the evidence change. 


"I NEED YOUR GRACE.." - INTERVIEWING GARY LIGHTBODY - A PERSONAL REFLECTION

Gary-Lightbody-4CF-3946-scaled

photo: Bernie Brown

 

What can I say? What an utter privilege. 

It was like the thrill of my life but I was so in the zone of “I don’t need to be rubbish here” that it probably flew past too quickly.

I have had such privileges before. The Ricky Ross event two years ago was amazing but I knew Ricky better. We’d had an afternoon together to conjure something. I had never met Gary Lightbody until 10 minutes before we went on. Yet, with our friends in common I felt I did.

So, very quickly Gary is sitting beside me and I am aware that I have to deliver. The interviewee is only as good as his interviewer and I could botch this one big time. 

I am also aware of the range of people in the room. We have the Snow Patrol fans that have come from all over Europe for tonight. They will want something new from Gary.

Yet, there are those who are not big Snow Patrol fans but have come to a 4 Corners Festival event to hear something about reconciliation in Belfast and beyond. Some of them also wondering why Gary Lightbody is speaking in Church and maybe expecting him to preach a little!

Some might just want me to shut up and let Gary sing!

I am tying all these threads together in my head but most important of all is Gary. I need to make him feel relaxed. As much as our mutual friend Davy has convinced and reassured him, he is suddenly vulnerable to a minister in front of a packed church!

What happened for the next hour and a half, and then the two and a half hours after that, was that Gary Lightbody proved every idea I have had about him from a distance to be utterly correct. His warmth, charm, authenticity and grace simply spilled over into an amazing evening.

Half way through I got to thinking about Gary’s grace and realised that even if I asked a stupid question Gary would have given a good answer to prevent me from looking stupid. When someone in conversation makes you feel that way it is always a good thing but in front of 400 plus people it is a gift.

I had prepared like never before. Indeed, some of my congregation and friends are struggling to come to terms with me and prepared in the same sentence! That was for Gary’s sake. I didn’t want to catch him out or make him feel vulnerable, so I was more scripted than usual. Gary was so open that he didn’t even look at the questions I sent.

It is in those questions that I have all my fear. Oh I wanted to know about Granny Rea but would the audience? I wanted to go into my favourite lyrics but would the audience? It could have been great fun for me to have a chat with Gary Lightbody but there were hundreds of others to consider. 

So, some Snow Patrol stories from the early days and right up to the writing of Wildness. 

Stories of family and Belfast and how Gary has watched it change as he returned time and time again before settling here. 

Stories of school and A levels. It was a joy that I got the same D grade in English Lit as one of rock’s best poets but humbling that the rock star got an A in RE to the minister’s B!!

There was serious talk about The Troubles, mental health and his father’s recent death. All balanced by off the cuff humour and a story about a pheasant called Paddy. We even had photos of Paddy! 

It was emotional. 

It was laugh out loud. 

It was dark.

Yet, through the cracks the light shone in.

I got all my answers and more. I came out more convinced than ever that Gary’s Granny, who he sings about being with him every day and guiding him, is a real role model for all Gary does. I loved hearing about how being a Christian led to her indifference to religious labels and her welcome for the minister or the priest. Grace personified. All that the 4 Corners Festival is about. I just wish Fr Martin and I had been the minister and priest! She would love this Festival!

We ended with grace. The 4 Corners Festival theme is Building A City Of Grace and few people have helped build us up as a city in recent years than Gary Lightbody. However, I was all over the grace part of our theme. 

I asked Gary about what he meant in Don’t Give Up - This is your grace/And I Don’t know why?” and in the most played song on the radio of the 21st Century, Chasing Cars - I need your love/To remind me/ To find my own”. 

His answer was interesting and revealing. Using Belle and Sebastian drummer Richard Colburn as an example he spoke of people who exude joy in a room full of people. He then spoke of the projects he has experienced through the Lightbody Foundation and people sacrificially giving to others. He spoke about those who have it within them to always make right choices. He was very clear that he didn’t see it in himself.

In private conversation I think Gary and I could talk for hours about those definitions of grace but publicly I would like to declare how much I disagree with his judgement on himself. In everything Gary Lightbody did from graciously agreeing to talking to me at a small Belfast festival, to his authenticity, honesty and care for the interviewer on the stage, to the two and a half hours afterwards that he gave everybody time who wanted to chat with him - GRACE. 

Grace oozed out all over the stage and back stage too. Oh, friends will want to argue theological definitions until I am bored and literally demented with it but as for grace in real life actions and giving, this was a sermon in flesh.

Having already done stunning versions of I Think Of Home, Run and Lifening (it's a great room Gary if you ever need it - top job Jonny Fitch on sound!) Gary finished with a closing him... Chasing Cars... and a preacher's pause at the altar call words, "I need your grace to remind me, of my own"

I do Gary and you did! Thank you!


SNOW PATROL - TAKE BACK THE CITY

Gary on Wall

“It’s a mess

It’s a start

It’s a flawed work of art

Your city, your call

Every crack, every wall”

 

At the launch of the 2016 4 Corners Festival, Hannah McPhillimy took Snow Patrol’s Take Back The City in an original way, keyboard led, reshaping chords and revealing other angles into the anthem that was. She made us feel old that it was all over the radio when she was at school!

Snow Patrol have also reworked Take Back The City since Hannah’s version back in 2016. Last year’s Reworked album brings a yearning poignancy to the song. Every time they sing “I love this city tonight/I love this city always” I realise that I do!

When Take Back The City was the lead off single on Snow Patrol’s A Hundred Million Suns it was is a bit of a departure. Up until then Gary Lightbody was writing about romance, mostly the melancholy side. In a Q magazine, at the time of the single’s release, Lightbody explained that the song is about his home city of Belfast which he has learned to fall in love with all over again. When Lightbody left for University in Dundee at the beginning of the nineties Belfast was a besieged city. 

There were a couple of years when every road into the city had police checks and people were being shot almost daily. By the time Lightbody returned, around 2005, the city had had a decade without bombs and bullets; it was a place revived with new shopping centres, city centre bars and clubs and music venues big enough for Snow Patrol’s success. Just like its returning sons, Belfast is thriving!

Though the negative side of Northern Ireland’s conflict haunts Take Back The City it is a song about loving the city, enjoying the city and reshaping the city. Lightbody sings about the broken record of entrenched political sectarianism and about the futility of picking sides in a historical fight he doesn’t understand. 

The main thrust of Lightbody’s ode to home though is about sucking the marrow out of the city, sometimes admitting to partying too much. Where I have personally been inspired is in the verse:

 

“God knows you put your life into its hands 

And it's both cradled you and crushed 

But now it's time to make your own demands.”

 

I am sure Gary Lightbody does not have the same missional intent as those of us who organised the 4 Corners Festival but this is a very interesting take on our relationship with our home cities, towns or villages. 

The city shapes us, cradles and crushes us into the adults we become but after that we are the shapers of the city. Our task as the Churches is to engage with our city as “World Formative Christians” to take a phrase from theologian Nicholas Wolterstorff.  

Since he released Take Back The City in 2016 Gary Lightbody has put his money and time where his mouth was. Whether encouraging young artists, or doing In Conversations like the one he is doing with me at 4 Corners Festival, he has contributed hugely to this mess, this start, this flawed work of art. Every time I hear it I want to get up and go and build a city of grace!


AN AUDIENCE WITH GARY LIGHTBODY - STRANMILLIS COLLEGE, BELFAST 18.12.19

Gary Stran

At a Greenbelt seminar thirty years ago, the late Australian biker preacher, John Smith warned against fake rock stars. John suggested that we looked past the poster. He encouraged us to look deeper at what our heroes were doing off the stage. Were they authentic? Were they trying to make a difference?

Tonight as I sat listening to Gary Lightbody speaking at Stranmillis College, Belfast I quickly concluded that this was the kind of person that John Smith was preaching about.

What Gary Lightbody has achieved with his band Snow Patrol might be enough for the ordinary rock star. He showed the resilience to make it through ten barren years before the single Run launched them into the Premier League of rock, back in 1999. Chasing Cars, after being played on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy, did the same for them in America. That latter song has just been recognised as the most played song of the 21st century. 

2019 marked the 25th year of Snow Patrol. A year after Wildness, arguably their best record yet, the band reworked many of their best songs and then reworked those reworks in a creatively astonishing concert tour.

All of this might have been enough for the rock star but beneath the posters Gary Lightbody has passion and purpose for much more than the next hit single.

Hosting this evening of conversation in Stranmillis College with an emphasis on Life Long learning tonight's interviewer Peter Weil spoke of how he had never known such an interview. Most artists he interviewed were trying to plug a book or film or album. Snow Patrol’s new record Reworked was never mentioned and when Gary did speak of work he was involved in it where the people’s names were on the product, like Aoife Crehan’s new movie The Last Right.

There is an authenticity about Gary Lightbody. Peter Weil highlighted his candour. Gary is self deprecating with a Northern Irish charm. After waxing lyrical about Jeff Buckley’s Grace record he puts down his own song Run a modern stadium anthem. He constantly gives the credit for what he has achieved to others, whether that is his teacher Mark McKee who introduced him to Seamus Heaney; John D’Arcy and Davy Matchett for their work on The Lightbody Foundation; or Charlotte Lyddon from The Oh Yeah Centre. At one point, he even swaps seats with Charlotte and takes a seat in the audience! 

It is Lightbody’s contribution outside of the music that is celebrated tonight. Firstly, his work in developing the Belfast music scene. There was no music space or music business infrastructure in Belfast when Gary was growing up so, along with Stuart Bailie, Gary founded this Oh Yeah hub that now helps young acts like the phenomenal 15 year old Connor Marcus who performed tonight as well as producers and promotors never mind work in areas with little access to music and those with dementia. A regret of my own life was not getting back to Stuart Bailie when he asked me to be on the original Board. I waited for him but years later realised he was probably waiting for me. Oh well!

That aforementioned candour becomes almost over exposed when Weil starts asking Gary about his depression and alcohol issues. Two girls from the audience bring such issues home to Northern Ireland and the near teenage suicide epidemic we have going on around us. Gary moves into almost counsellor persona and engages compassionately. He breaks down when he speaks of how his Snow Patrol colleagues Jonny, Johnny, Paul and Nathan flew from the UK to arrive at his front door in California. 

That raw emotion bubbles over again when we are shown the video for his recent song Soon about his father’s dementia. I have to say that I was so drawn into the song and video, where he and his dad go through old photographs and videos, that I had forgotten that Gary was actually sitting underneath the screen. I was emotional. How must Gary have felt. He speaks, as always, lovingly about his parents and does break down when he says that that very afternoon his father started singing along to Sinatra. He had never heard him sing before.

Gary’s humility seems to make him less open when questions turn to The Lightbody Foundation. John D’Arcy takes over and shares some of the amazing projects that they have been funding. The training of young people who had been through counselling and were now counselling others was for D’Arcy the most highlight project. That Gary Lightbody should bring such passion and purpose to charities doing great work in his own community is another mark of the kind of rock star John Smith was pointing us to back in that Greenbelt seminar.

As the evening went on I was only too aware that I am getting the incredible privilege of interviewing Gary at the 2020 4 Corners Festival. I was scrawling away in the dark jotting down a few things that I will want to encourage him to talk about. 

I am fascinated by his evolving love for Northern Ireland and the island as a whole, from the days his parents drove them around to discover it (as he sang tonight in I Think Of Home) to his love for Heaney and his own engagement with the “broken teeth of Irish history”.

While conversing daringly with the two girls from St Dominics Grammar School who asked about suicide Gary mentions the communal trauma that we Northern Irish carry post Troubles. That maybe it is even carried by those who were not born when the actual bombs and bullets rained down is something to be urgently explored.

Most of all I was captivated, inspired and sent home to surmise a thread running through the entire evening - “the invisible tribe”. Gary said that this is what he hoped to do when Snow Patrol were on stage. Breaking the performer, audience barrier and creating something positively communal. He also mentioned that Heaney’s work seemed to him to be about “love and light and kindness”.

Gary came back to this idea when he responded to the questions about depression. He was keen to encourage community, that kind of community that his band members showed him by turning up at his door when he was in his darkest moment. It is this concept that Gary names "invisible tribe” that every 4 Corners Festival, maybe this one even more particularly, is all about. I look forward to teasing out how we might create such a tribe  on January 31st in Fitzroy. 


BEING WITH JESUS - THE SNOW PATROL COMMUNION

What If This - SP

In Fitzroy, just now, we are in a series called BEING WITH. We are seeing the greatest problem at the heart of our humanity as being isolation. The following was posted on social media by Fitzer, John Trinder. It seems that Winnie The Pooh was into our BEING WITH SERIES

 

"Today was a Difficult Day," said Pooh.

There was a pause.

"Do you want to talk about it?" asked Piglet.

"No," said Pooh after a bit. "No, I don't think I do."

"That's okay," said Piglet, and he came and sat beside his friend.

"What are you doing?" asked Pooh.

"Nothing, really," said Piglet. "Only, I know what Difficult Days are like. I quite often don't feel like talking about it on my Difficult Days either.

"But goodness," continued Piglet, "Difficult Days are so much easier when you know you've got someone there for you. And I'll always be here for you, Pooh."

And as Pooh sat there, working through in his head his Difficult Day, while the solid, reliable Piglet sat next to him quietly, swinging his little legs...he thought that his best friend had never been more right."

 

As well as Pooh, Snow Patrol seem in on BEING WITH too. In this morning’s communion we are going to listen to their song What If This Is All The Love You Ever Get. Gary Lightbody was not thinking Jesus when he wrote these words but listen to them as if Jesus was speaking from the Lord’s Table.  

 

“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”

 

Gary Lightbody says of this song:

 

"That song is less about love as it is about friendship. A lot of my friends in L.A. and back home in Northern Ireland were actually going through break-ups and divorces around the time that I wrote the song. And I wanted to let them know that I’d been there, you know? And to just come over and sit together. Don’t have to talk, don’t have to say anything. Just know that I’ve been there too. I’ve been in the ruins too. You don’t have to talk immediately. You do have to talk […] but you can both sit together and just know that you’re there for each other."

 

BEING WITH

And then Jesus

In Matthew 26 (26-28) we read:

 

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”

 

One of my favourite writers James K A Smith writes in his book Embracing The Kingdom:

 

“The tangible display and performance of the gospel in the Lord's Supper is a deeply affective practice. Its sights and smells, its rhythms and movements, are the sort of thing that seep into our imaginations and become second nature.

Marshalling the mundane and universal human practice of eating, and thus also taking up the common connection between food and fellowship, the table of the Lord is a catalyst for reconciliation...In a broken, fragmented world, the church is called to be the first fruits of a new creation by embodying a reconciled community; and the way we begin to learn that is at the communion table.”

 

The Lord’s Table is not an add on to the worship service. It is not just a liturgical ritual. This is a table where Jesus, in radical grace, invites us to sit down with him. To BE WITH him. To find him in bread and wine. 

BEING WITH people people transmits their values and traits to you. BEING WITH a spouse for 25 years will change who you are. You will pick up many things, good and sadly bad! 

BEING WITH Jesus is the only way to find his radical life and different rhythms becoming a part of you. 

Sitting at his table and you can soak in the welcoming nature of Jesus, his Emmanuel - God with us -companionship and his forgiving spirit. Be alert also to the humility of his cross, his sacrificial character and that servant heart for the isolated, the alienated, the lost. Look closer and see vibrant imagination, a fresh vision of how it can be and the passion for reconciliation. BEING WITH JESUS, soaking up his presence, should transform us. 

We can know about Jesus. We can hear sermons, or go to lectures, listen to pod casts or read books. Knowledge about someone is not the same as BEING WITH and knowing in that sense. We need to saturate ourselves in the presence of Jesus. Worship helps but best of all is this little piece of bread and sip of wine. Here in this intimate space we can sit in the wreckage and ruins of a broken world and find companionship in Jesus. Now… “what if this is all the love you ever get?”


SNOW PATROL - REWORKED (EP1)

Reworked 1

I have been waiting patiently for this Snow Patrol Reworked project since I heard rumours of the cunning plan.

When Gary Lightbody finally went public with the idea in an interview with Jo Whiley, on Radio 2 in July, he declared that this version of Chocolate was better than the original. When you hear it, you understand why.

In September 1984, when Gary Lightbody was but 8 years old, Aztec Camera released, on their 12” single of All I Need Is Everything, a very downbeat acoustic version of Van Halen’s Jump. It was so alternative to the Van Halen original that I wondered how you could so reinvent a song. 

Then I realised that Jump was inspired by someone who was going to jump to their suicide. Van Halen felt that there might be somebody watching the drama of someone on the ledge who might shout “Go ahead and jump”. Though the song shifted to the idea of jumping into love Roddy Frame, main man in Aztec Camera, went for the suicide scenario.

It would have been impossible for Van Halen to have eeked that depressive mood out of the song, being so rooted in the genre of hard rock. It took another band to maybe give the song its defining sound.

Fortunately Snow Patrol have created a space in their body of work where they can stand outside that anthemic rock sound that they  stadiums with, to experiment with soundscapes. For their 25th year as a band they have left a stack of their songs in the hands of Iain Archer, who was a former member and has stepped in on occasions down through the years, to play around with the originals. Hence Reworked (EP1).

And so… Chocolate. Yes Gary, this is the definitive version. So glad you didn’t need Aztec Camera to do it for you! The lyric of near spiritual awakening and confessional regret needed this more reflective face. Archer gives the whole thing an almost prayerful guitar shimmer and then gives us an understated take on the original riff as a repentant Amen! 

Crack The Shutters is the song least changed in these reworks but any self indulgent radio flirting shine has been taken off. It makes the romantic glory of the song more intimate and this lyric is intimate. Very!

Eyes Open? Well heavens but the guitar intro reminds me of Aztec Camera’s Jump. Archer’s imaginative wonder here is in the song’s climactic crescendo. When you expect Nathan Connolly to strut guitars, there is a beautiful blend of voices, almost like the Voice Squad, pushing it beautifully to conclusion.

The opening Time Won’t Go Slowly is the new song on the EP. It is another requisite Lightbody penned love song. To a fairground carousel waltz Gary ruminates on the relationship between love and time. 

Time can stand still as if Empires and cities have disappeared but most often time is rushing too fast. Even when we want to speed up the relationship we don’t want it to all slip away. The truth is that this song might be an early 40s look at mortality as much as the romance! You are getting to that age boys! 

All 4 songs considered and this is an EP right up my street. Gary Lightbody’s lyrics and voice get a firmament to shine. The songs get opened up… and flourish.  

More!


U2 - INVISIBLE (at WARD PARK 3)

Bono and Gary

Invisible is a fascinating song in U2’s body of work. Released for what seemed to be a lead off single for the long anticipated Songs Of Innocence album, something caused it to lose its sparkle. The album got delayed for many months and by the time the album found its way into everyone in the world’s Apple Library it was merely a hidden track.

It did make the set list for the Songs Of Innocence Tour but Invisible is a song that could be forgiven for being miffed about how it has been treated.

Bono has always talked about it as a song about the band’s first skirmishes into gigging in London. In the face of punk rock it may be that the new weird Dublin boys felt invisible. It is also definitely about that punk value of attempting to break down the walls between the band and the audience.

That main mantra though is about so much more than the first gigs in London. “There is no them, there’s only us” is a phrase that could have been stamped across everything that U2 have been about since they started out… 

Their entire work could be described as re-humanising those who tend to be invisible to us. The obvious subjects are the those across the world suffering with AIDS. The download of the Invisible single raised over $3million for AIDS in just a few days. The message is clear. We have dehumanised millions of people across our world. These individuals are are more than we see and more than we know and we need to look again and see their bodies and souls. That lingering anthemic “fade out” nails the prophetic protest, “There is no them... There’s only us..” It is simple, profound and powerful.

Of course Invisible can throw a wider arclight. This could be about the dalits of India, the forgotten refugees of Syria or Sudan or the disappeared of any war. A perfect slogan for a man who runs a campaign he called ONE.

On its release I blogged about how the “There is no them... there’s only us” echoed true to me in the divisions of my own city of Belfast. The two historical sides of our conflict can live in places geographically and politically where we stereotype “the other” or “them”. We need to realise that the other is more than we see and know. The only way out of division is to commit to the common good. When we see the city as about us, not about us and them, then everything can begin to change.

With Snow Patrol at Ward Park 3, Bono used it for this very Northern Irish purpose. Snow Patrol have always attempted to be a unifying force in their home land - “Ireland at the World Cup, either north or south”. Bono just made that message more obvious at the end of One in Ward Park. After the crescendo of the crowd’s delight at the end of the song, Bono gave it a moment and then before he left the stage reprised it acapella, reminding us again…

“There is no them, there’s only us”


SNOW PATROL - WARD PARK 3 - BANGOR, CO. DOWN - MAY 25, 2019

Bono and Gary

The look on Gary Lightbody’s face from the moment Snow Patrol walked on stage. It was a like a kid in a toy shop, open mouthed, wide eyed, disbelieving what was in front of him and how he seemed to have the right to play with all of the toys.

Ward Park 3, as it was called, was the third such venture of Snow Patrol, following similar undertakings in 2007 and 2010. 35,000 people. The biggest concert in Northern Irish history. This third concert started at 2 o’clock and the undercard of Northern Ireland’s finest acts filled a day. To such an extent actually that Bangor had to accommodate Ryan McMullan and David C Clements the night before.

As I watched Lightbody’s beaming smile, total satisfaction and hand thumping his heart in an act of utter love I couldn’t help thinking that it was a like a wee boy playing in the park, like Gary did in this park, imagining that he was in a band and that he could put up a concert… over there. Through their ninety minute set Lightbody played the fan as much as he did the star.

In those boyhood dreams he might have thought that maybe he could even get Bono to join his band on stage! Between 1985 and 1995, maybe beyond, the hope at every gig in Ireland was that Bono might come on stage for a song. Ward Park 3 had absolutely no such anticipation. Not even when Snow Patrol inexplicably decided to cover One as a tribute to bands from the Republic Of Ireland. 

I was a little worried about Gary’s stumble through the first verse when suddenly Bono’s voice… then I can see him larger than legend on the big screen in front of me. “Is he really here,” my daughter Caitlin asked and I wondered was it a recording, then there he was. Gary’s mouth is drooling, eyes even wider. It’s a love fest, Bono cheering on his younger northern brothers and ending with U2’s political knocking down of walls, “there is no them, there’s only us”… As he leaves, Lightbody utters, “Oh my goodness,” and the band quickly riff into Chasing Cars, the only thing that can follow that!

That Bono’s appearance was immediately all over social media and today’s tabloid headline should not distract from the success of Ward Park 3.

Nine hours were four too many for me but seeing only Foy Vance, Two Door Cinema Club and Snow Patrol was utterly wonderful. Vance’s song fitted perfectly. He even has one called Bangor Town for goodness sake. Upbeat Feelgood is a perfect soundtrack for such a day and then a lovely touch as he dedicates Guiding Light to the Archer family, Iain and Paul well known brothers in this music community, who lost their mother just a couple of weeks before. Iain and his wife Miriam, along with Ryan McMullan join Vance on backing vocals! 

Two Door Cinema Club with young Trimble all tight cut hair, mustard polo neck and green blue suit, admit that they were teenagers for the first Ward Park gig and couldn't have dreamed... Could Bangor have dreamed of having two such world recognised bands at once. The younger pretenders gave us the County Down version of Arcade Fire with American accents in their chat. The potential is good but they are not stadium friendly yet and miss that boy next door whimsy of Mr. Lightbody.

Whoever else was on the bill, the vast majority of the crowd were here for our hosts and when they arrive to the strains of Chocolate Lightbody’s arms are in the air and his face is filling the big screens with utter glee! 

Boom, straight into Take Back The City and the screens are jerking with images of Northern Ireland, places and people Morrison, Best, McIlroy and most poignant and contemporary Lyra McKee. A last photo of Hume and Trimble with Bono holding up their hands at the Yes Campaign Rally in 1998 is maybe Snow Patrol’s most political statement, it’s what rock can do and maybe a hint at Bono’s appearance later on. In the rest of the set, new songs sit comfortably beside the old and Run as always is best of all. 

With Connolly throwing shapes, pounding the riffs, Quinn and Wilson thumping the beat and McDaid adding all kinds of touches of sophistication, Lightbody leads the band and orchestrates the crowd. He has a dose of the cold and his voice is not at its strongest. He uses the excuse to get the crowd singing even more than usual, the call and response of Shut Your Eyes most Ward Park anthemic!

After Bono has left the stage and the planets have shimmied back into place, the encore is most potent of all. Just McDaid and Lightbody in the now familiar If This Is All The Love You Ever Get? Mellow, emotional, spiritual: 

 

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

 

Communally this is like a Communion liturgy. Utterly beautiful. 

With the closing Just Say Yes everyone is deeply satisfied. I still think a wee dedication to our politicians in just a last throw away depth charge wouldn’t have gone amiss but we’ve had the political tonight. 

Ward Park 3 was a celebration of who we are, with our band, and our boy. Even applauded by His Bononess himself. We are all walking home looking forward to 4!