Snow Patrol had the most played song on UK radio during the first decade of this century, so there was always going to be a full house when they finally made their return to Perth as part of their Wildness tour, in ‘unplugged’ mode. Having supported Ed Sheeran around North America and a couple of Lollapalooza stints of late, the band were in fine form.
Irish countryman Ryan McMullan played a short set before the headliner. Ghosts highlighted the strong voice of McMullan, but his stiff performance made this feel like an audition for The Voice instead of a gig. Bowie On The Radio sounded like it was written during a game of lyrics scrabble, but was given a warm reception as the ‘big notes get votes’ ethos was well in force. McMullan moved to guitar for Letting Go For A Little While, which was overly earnest and emphasised that although he has a likeable voice and some musical chops, his tunes lacked personality.
To promote their latest album, Snow Patrol are doing intimate shows in acoustic mode where they are stripped down to three members for a new take on some old favourites (with Ryan McMullan stepping in for Johhny McDaid who is recovering from neck surgery). Gary Lightbody apologised for the band being 15 minutes late due to a technical issue, but all was forgotten once the signature riff of Chocolate kicked in.
A third of the set was made up of songs from the band’s latest record, but those unfamiliar with the material were kept engaged with some fluent between song banter. Empress made an early appearance and while lacking the bite of the recorded version, still has a tidy hook. Don’t Give In didn’t fare so well with Lightbody’s falsetto falling short of the mark. Clearly sensing that it was time to dust off some better known tunes, Run drew the crowd back in even if it lost some of its anthemic lustre when stripped back to its bare essentials. Set Fire To The Third Bar, on the other hand, maintained its haunting quality, with Lightbody carrying the song that was originally recorded in partnership with Martha Wainwright.
While most songs had stayed as true as possible to the tempos on the records, You’re All I Have was given a slower and more tender keyboard arrangement, to be one of the band’s better moments.
Lightbody may have penned tunes with Taylor Swift, but even he isn’t immune to writer’s block – he stated that Life On Earth took him five years to write and cured him of the affliction. Unfortunately, the song sounded laboured and overthought and couldn’t be saved by Lightbody’s full-hearted delivery.
Nathan Connolly may have worn the whitest sneakers seen outside of an episode of Seinfeld, but his guitar lines were understated and tasteful, and his backing vocals were on the money all night. Snow Patrol would still be dining out on the royalties from Chasing Cars thanks to its placement on a season finale of Grey’s Anatomy, and the knowing smiles between the band members as the crowd sung every word shows they never tire of it.
McMullan joked with the crowd as he messed up the intro for the songs either side of the encore. After the misfire, What If This Is All The Love You Ever Get showed that the band are still at their best when mining the depths of despair and heartbreak. The intimate approach to the tunes played to Snow Patrol’s strengths when drawing on their emotive back catalogue, but lacked some bite when delivering the more outward looking, newer material.
Photos by Linda Dunjey