Snow Patrol Live @ Bristol Carling Academy
March 15, 2004
Review & Photography: Steve Bateman

Following the release of three critically acclaimed albums, Songs For Polar Bears (1998), When It's All Over We Still Have To Clear Up (2001) and Final Straw (2003) + the recent Top 5 breakthrough single Run, Snow Patrol are now beginning to make the successful transition, from underground indie hopefuls, to major-league players.

The Glasgow-based Irish band, originally started life as a duo in 1994 called Polar Bear, but had to later change their name due to legal reasons. As Snow Patrol, they expanded to a three-piece and are now a four-piece: Gary Lightbody (vocals / guitar), Mark McClelland (bass / keyboards), John Quinn (drums) and Nathan Connolly (guitar).

Having signed to Polydor from Jeepster Records, the band have continuously served up a diverse mix of melodic / soul-baring songs (based primarily on love and relationships), loud fuzzy guitar hooks and fragile acoustic laments, all with underlying pop-punk sensibilities.

Although alternative rock influences, including The Pixies, Dinosaur Jr, Soundgarden, My Bloody Valentine, Super Furry Animals etc. are clearly evident in their early work, it is the new songs - their most grandiose and well-produced to date - which have managed to balance / capture the band's essence and sound, in its truest light.

Gary's side-project, Scottish super-group The Reindeer Section, has also clearly benefited Snow Patrol's creativity. He reveals: "Whenever we go anywhere new, we're like kids in a huge empty house. We want to explore all these big spaces, climb into the attic and rake among boxes, and get down into the basement and find the stuff that has been stashed away. For us, the world could never be too big."

A Sold Out UK Tour (with upgraded venues), must come as a great source of vindication for Snow Patrol, as after 6 long years, it's further proof, that their music is at last being recognised and embraced by many - which is what they have always wanted.

With support coming from their Scottish friends, Astrid and Terra Diablo, the night kicks-off in fine style, as both bands compliment the different moods of Snow Patrol perfectly - thus earning themselves a very warm and welcome reception, from the Bristol faithful.

Bathed in blue lights, Snow Patrol begin with the unrelenting Wow, and as Gary sings "Don't be scared of anything at all, everything we have is all we need" - you're happy to trust his assurance. Continuing the momentum are Gleaming Auction, One Night Is Not Enough, and Whatever's Left, before the set is taken down a pace.

After How To Be Dead, Gary informs us that "It's only the second time we've played that song. We were coaxed into performing it last night in Portsmouth, as a fan kept going on and on, and threatened to kill me if we didn't (laughing), so I had the words printed out for tonight!"

In contrast to his often repenting and disillusioned lyrics (which run the full gamut of emotions) e.g. "What have I done?… What have I become?" from Chocolate, on stage, Gary is extremely charismatic, and his sense of humour / warm nature immediately wins you over… he even makes time to chat to a fan in the audience, who lives nearby his hometown in Ireland.

Understandably, tonight's set consists mainly of new songs from Final Straw, but a few oldies, including Olive Grove, are also thrown in for good measure. Live, Snow Patrol's musical cohesiveness is very impressive - alongside the guitars and bass, the undulating drum patterns and keyboards have much more prominence, and Gary's voice (whilst soft) is always commanding and powerful.

As Ways & Means fades away, the atmospheric anthem Run begins - a song which has already been labelled as an 'all-time classic.' Opening bruised and slowly, Run builds to an uplifting and spine-tingling chorus. "Light up, light up, as if you have a choice, even if you cannot hear my voice, I'll be right beside you dear…" and with the venue lights lighting the audience simultaneously, it fills you with a wondrous sense of euphoria.

With a beautiful guitar solo, that lasts nearly a minute, Gary then leaves the closing lines to us, and Snow Patrol are rewarded with one of the loudest and longest ovations, that I have ever heard - they look very flattered! "You're a lovely bunch of people, thank you" replies a beaming Gary.

In closing, Black & Blue and Spitting Games return us to the band's rockier side, and result in the first few rows pogoing - in a manner, which suggests they've been patiently awaiting the right time to 'rock out' again. With an encore and Gary wishing us a "Good Night," you're left hoping that Snow Patrol's Summer Festival appearances, and more singles from Final Straw, will bring them even greater success, as they have worked so hard to reach this far.

Captivating and Inspiring.

A very special thanks to Gordon Duncan @ APB, for all of his help, and to Snow Patrol + their management / security.