You know how when you hear some bands, you are transported back to a certain time and place in your life as soon as you hear the opening bars of one of their songs? Snow Patrol are one of those bands for me. Not once, but twice in my life, Snow Patrol have formed the soundtrack to what was going on for me and therefore, have a really big soft spot in my musical heart. I was excited to get the chance to go and see them at the iconic Palais theatre in Melbourne but an acoustic show? I like me some “geetars” so I was slightly disappointed, until I thought about the other greats I have seen at this venue in acoustic sets……….Eddy Vedder, Chris Cornel, OK, I’ll put up with there not being any drums, bring it on.
I was pretty sure this was going to be a Celtic fan fest. Snow Patrol hail from Northern Ireland, but they met while studying at Dundee University in Scotland so have all their bases covered when it comes to expats with incomprehensible accents. The crowd were mostly of a certain age (meaning 40’s and 50’s) and were a mix of Brits, Irish with some Aussies thrown in for good measure. Supporting tonight was a lonely Irishman sitting at his keyboard on the enormous Palais stage. Ryan McMullan came across like an Irish Ed Sheeran. Playing his own songs, accompanying himself on keyboards and guitars, he screamed that singer/songwriter vibe with heartfelt melodies and relatable lyrics. He introduced a song that he wrote about leaving friends and family to go off travelling and I could have cried. That pain is still fresh in my mind from my younger years, and I’m sure for many of the newer Australians in the audience. A great set.
For this acoustic Snow Patrol tour, there are only 3 of the members performing; singer and guitarist Gary Lightbody, guitarist Nathan Connolly and until recently, Johnny McDaid on keyboards. Gary explained that Johnny had a neck injury and had gone home for surgery, so the piano stool was occupied by the now familiar Ryan McMullan. Gary Lightbody has a beautiful voice, one of those voices that makes me think I’m standing on a beach breathing in ozone, salt spray and fresh air. A pure voice with endearing Belfast vowels on certain words. It gives me goosebumps.
They began their set with Chocolate from their breakthrough album from 2003, Final Straw (and time and place song numero uno for me). I suddenly forgot how much I love drums as this musical journey began. Don’t Give in from their latest album, Wildness (2018) sees Gary adopt a husky tone to his voice and the recorged version has great backing vocals. Run, another iconic song from the Final Straw brought a rather subdued singalong. That’s one problem with acoustic gigs, there is a lot of silence in between bars and nowhere for the crowd singers to hide if they fluff a note. But it was word perfect and heartfelt and we were honoured with acknowledgement from Lightbody that Australian crowds always go the extra mile and learn the words. Set the Fire to the Third Bar, I love. The recorded version is sung with Martha Wainwright, a Canadian folk singer, who on this song sounds so like Kate Bush.
You’re all I have is a more up-tempo song for Snow Patrol and it brought a few die hards on their feet and a loud scream from one lady that really fired up the crowd for a sit down dance and singalong. I think by this point, any self-consciousness was gone, and everyone was ready to soak in the Snow Patrol magic and have a good time.
The main set wound down on a high with probably 2 of their most successful songs. Chasing Cars came to be such a success when it was featured on an episode of Grey’s Anatomy in the States before it had even been released as a single. And I suspect it has also been the song played for a thousand first dances at weddings the world over. And finally, we finished with Open Your Eyes (time & place song number 2 for me). I love how this song starts out with minimal instruments and builds to a crescendo. Even without the electrics, the trio managed to pull off the belly butterflies I feel when I hear this song with no problems.
After a quick break, we were back for a 2 song encore, finishing with Just Say Yes, a song I wasn’t familiar with but a nice upbeat number to finish what was a great show. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who had spent the evening drowning in nostalgia and feeling happy to be alive.
Review Contributed by Wendy Smith