With a beard so lush that it begs attention, Steve Smyth had the audience captivated before he’d even sung a note or plucked a cord. Within seconds of the beginning of his set, Smyth had already captured the energy of a full band as he played solo.
Taking up as much of the stage as one man could, the Sydney based blues-man looked passionate about his craft, despite it feeling that maybe Smyth would have felt more comfortable performing at a bar than in a theatre.
Performing songs off his album Release, the enigmatic singer and stage frolicker displayed his Jeff Buckley and Tom Waits influences proudly. At one point, Smyth stood clear of the microphone with just his voice in tow to demonstrate that despite being a little rough around the edges for a Snow Patrol audience, the man possessed his fair share of eloquence.
The main act though have been notorious for such a quality from the early beginnings of their six album career. Place Snow Patrol in Melbourne’s Regent Theatre with a low key set of largely acoustic numbers and it would appear that the Irish group were right at home in the evening’s setting.
With Australia being the only stop on Snow Patrol’s world tour to receive acoustic performances, frontman Gary Lightbody was eager to stress, even before they’d played their first song, that this was going to be a ‘special’ night.
Opening with ‘Dark Roman Wine’, a song from 2009′s greatest-hits-of-sorts compilation Up To Now, their set spanned songs from 2003′s Final Straw through to their latest release 2011′s Fallen Empires.
The crowd were quick to laugh at Lightbody’s quips in between songs, with the lead singer’s charisma on show throughout their set. However despite his efforts the audience were initially not so quick to participate in singing, even when begged.
Old favourite ‘Run’ saw a turnaround in attitudes, but it wasn’t until ‘Open Your Eyes’ that the audience really came to life. The timing though wasn’t surprising, it was the first song played off their international breakthrough album Eyes Open.
Clearly there were many a fan in attendance still enamoured with the 2006 release much more than anything else from the band’s discography. Unsurprising given the amount of exposure the band received that year, which leads to the obligatory mention of how a medical TV drama pushed Snow Patrol into the mainstream.
Their latest album saw the band explore further into synth territories, most notably on lead single, ‘Called Out Into the Dark’. But when stripped back, the song lost its sense of pop urgency and while it might have sounded pleasant enough, it was a reminder that a full band would have been far more appealing.
Because as so much of Snow Patrol’s earlier material is soft enough, a little bit of variation wouldn’t have gone astray.
However the few downsides of an acoustic set were barely noticed on the ballad moments of ‘New York’ and ‘This Isn’t Everything You Are’.
The one surprise of the night came when Clare Bowditch was invited on stage for ‘Set Fire To The Third Bar’, filling in for Martha Wainwright. While at times it seemed that the songstress struggled to remember all the words, the dual vocals were undoubtedly stunning.
Completing an Australiana dalliance, the trio covered AC/DC’s ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’ much to the locals’ delight.
Playing two of their biggest songs before the encore, ‘You’re All I Have’ and ‘Chasing Cars’, were obviously pre-eminent highlights for many as the audience gave a standing ovation, even with an encore to come.
Closing with 2009′s ‘Just Say Yes’, Lightbody had little trouble convincing the crowd to stand and participate in a casual groove.
Their set wasn’t anything ground-breaking or life-changing, but Snow Patrol have never been anything more than crowd pleasers.
With feel good moments aplenty, the crowd were indeed more than just pleased with the evenings entertainment and nor would you expect anything more of the Irish band.
Read the review at tonedeaf.com.au.