- 16 Jan 20
Following the cancellation of their Olympia gig last November, due to illness, Snow Patrol finally made it to the venue last night. With Gary Lightbody in compelling form, on an emotional evening, they proved to be well worth the wait.
As Snow Patrol embark on an acoustic tour to promote their album Reworked – which features new takes on old classics from the band – I have one concern.
Will Snow Patrol’s stadium anthems – now played without the use of drums, electronics and flashy stage craft – work well in the intimate sitting-only setting of venues like The Olympia Theatre?
First, there’s the opening act to consider. The fine and highly respected Northern songwriter, Iain Archer – who happens to be a member of the Gary Lightbody side-project Tired Pony – is on intro duties. He is also part of the current Patrol line-up, sitting in on keyboards for his old mates. In solo mode, his dynamic guitar strumming and raspy yet sweet vocals warm up the audience nicely. Mostly, he performs solo material, though there's a powerful rendition of Tired Pony’s ‘I Am a Landslide’ which gets an excited response.
Next up, it's the band of the hour – and it is greatly to frontman Gary Lightbody and co’s credit that just a few tracks into their set, you've forgotten that anything is missing. It all feels perfect.
Kicking off their set, Snow Patrol launch into ‘Chocolate’. The instrumentation may be stripped back, but the Final Straw single loses none of its thumping energy thanks to the driving guitars of Lightbody and bandmate Nathan Connolly. The same goes for follow-up ‘Crack the Shutters’: played with just the bare essentials, it actually feels slightly rawer and more propulsive.
Hearing their hits back-to-back, you’re reminded of just how many potent singles, and hit records, Snow Patrol have released over their 25 years in action. Tracks like ‘You’re All I Have’, ‘Called Out in the Dark’, ‘Open Your Eyes’ and ‘Chasing Cars’ all sound crisp and tight and have the audience singing along, as well as clapping and stomping their feet – Lightbody jokes that the latter is impressive, given that there’s no drumbeat. The frontman is in fun-form throughout the show, laughing about how he sometimes forgets his own lyrics and recalling how the Olympia is the only theatre where he’s fallen off the stage twice, an anecdote greeted by an eager female fan shouting ‘I’m ready!’ at the singer.
That said, it’s the quieter more dramatic moments that most resonate. Even without Martha Wainwright’s vocals (which, as Lightbody points out, were recorded in one take in Temple Bar), star-crossed lovers ballad ‘Set Fire to the Third Bar’ still sends tingles down the spine.
The stirring ‘Run’ elicits the same sensation, particularly when the crowd – singing along with gusto – are bathed in light, as Lightbody belts out its chorus ("Light up, light up"). The most powerful moment of the night, however, comes with ‘Soon’, a song written by Gary Lightbody about his father, who passed away just before Christmas 2019, and sung solo here. Prefacing the song with a tender tribute, the emotionally raw rendition earns a well-deserved standing ovation.
Moving between honest, sincere vulnerability and goofy big-grinned banter, it’s clear that Snow Patrol are having a great time. Closing their set with the uplifting ‘Just Say Yes’, Lightbody promises fans that the Patrol will be back as soon as they have a new record. On the strength of last night's emotionally-driven performance, hopefully that'll be sooner rather than later.