Following a six-year hiatus, with last album Fallen Empire’s being released in 2011 and toured in 2012, Snow Patrol have returned to touring following new album Wildness, released in 2018. I was lucky enough to witness them perform backstage nearly a year ago while working at BBC’s Big Weekend in Coventry – with Wildness receiving a great critical reception, it appears the band are back on top form.
If you’re ever lucky enough to receive two press tickets for an event with The Boar, my first piece of advice is this; choose your +1 wisely. Having been a big Snow Patrol fan for a long time, I elected to take my flatmate and indeed The Boar’s wonderful Co-Editor in Chief, Dan Ruben. I quickly found myself regretting this decision. I followed Dan’s lead on a leisurely train ride and dinner, reassured that he had checked the correct location.
We were fairly relaxed as we joined the back of the ticket queue at 6.30, the time the tickets stated to arrive – only for a security guard to point out we were at the wrong arena. A consequent mad-dash and train ride to the other side of Birmingham saw us arrive at Arena Birmingham just in time to see second support act, Kodaline (my sincere apologies to first support act, Roe.) Dan found this mishap somewhat hilarious and ‘an adventure’; I can’t say I agreed.
With Wildness receiving a great critical reception, it appears the band are back on top form
Irish band Kodaline, unfortunately, confirmed their status as a support band within this 30-minute set – and not a particularly great one either. Their unoriginal and multiple chants of ‘how’s everyone doing out there, alright?’ were met with an awkwardly limited response from the crowd, and even the next biggest cliché of support acts – ‘Is everyone excited for Snow Patrol?’ was met with few genuinely enthusiastic cheers.
Kodaline have had limited success since their album In A Perfect World back in 2013, but even more well-known songs from this album such as ‘High Hopes’ and ‘All I Want’ failed to warm up the crowd appropriately. While technically not a disappointing performance, Kodaline is sadly in need of some new and more catchy material.
A quick break between Kodaline and Snow Patrol’s set allowed Dan and I a proper look at the arena. With a capacity of just under 16,000, the entire venue was sold out. We were quite clearly within the younger minority of the audience. In our block, situated immediately stage left and with a fantastic view, we were primarily surrounded by older couples and families. This was no detriment to the atmosphere, however, and the arena was buzzing with anticipation by the time the house lights eventually went down.
With a capacity of just under 16,000, the entire venue was sold out
Snow Patrol’s logo, a single snowflake, illuminates the screen as the band ran on stage. Dressed in the casual attire we have come to associate with Snow Patrol, they immediately break into ‘Take Back the City,’ ‘Chocolate’ and ‘Crack the Shutters’, with frontman Gary Lightbody getting the crowd going using a combination of audience participation and enthusiasm. He takes a moment to humbly thank the audience, saying how delighted the band are to return to touring and to such an overwhelming reception, before once again being a wonderful stage presence with ‘Empress’, a popular hit from their new album. This is before he takes a quick banana break.
The band keep their stage visuals simple yet entertaining at this point, with ‘Take Back the City’ providing an impressive introduction, with a camera panning through a CGI city-scape that appears to be crumbling. The songs that follow are accompanied by zooms of the band performing, stylised to fit the song.
The first highlight of the evening comes with one of the bands best-known songs, ‘Run.’ Keeping the stage and visuals simple once again, the band deliver stunning performances and the audience singing almost as loud as Lightbody himself. Phone torches illuminate the arena, and Lightbody cannot keep a huge grin off of his face, clearly delighted with the response of the audience. It is a trend that continues throughout the night, and ‘Run’ seamlessly turns into the band’s most heart-breaking song ‘You CoulBebe Happy’. A gossamer curtain descends at all sides of the stage, and the visual of cascading glitter is projected. While obscuring the band, the overall effect is gorgeous.
‘Take Back the City’ provides an impressive introduction, with a camera panning through a CGI city-scape that appears to be crumbling
The band continue their set with ‘Life On Earth’, complete with stunning space visuals, the dramatic ‘Make This Go On Forever,’ and Lightbody has the entire stadium silent for various interactions within ‘Shut Your Eyes,’. However, as is to be expected, the overall highlight of the night comes from the performance of ‘Chasing Cars.’ The entire venue is on their feet by this stage, and the dazzling laser display, audience torches swaying, loud audience singing, and Lightbody’s again quite genuinely delighted grin make for quite a magical experience.
An added benefit to the audience being perhaps slightly older is that, once they have a few overpriced drinks in them, all fear goes out the window. As ‘You’re All That I Have’ announces the end of the bands set, the arena remain on their feet for a dance. And remain on their feet still for an encore of ‘What if This Is All the Love You’ll Ever Get’ and ‘Just Say Yes.’
During their enco,re Lightbody professes that whether the audience believe them or not, this is the best date of the tour thus far. With such an outstanding performance and atmosphere, somehow I can believe it – Snow Patrol have proved they are definitely back, and here to stay.