Snow Patrol fans are getting restless for a new album; the band hasn’t put out a full-length record of fresh material since 2011’s Fallen Empires. This might explain lead singer Gary Lightbody’s appearance Wednesday night here in Seattle, where he surprised an intimate, capacity audience of 250 people with a handful of barely written songs that are expected to land on the group’s seventh studio album, which they unhurriedly are planning to release in the months ahead.
Honestly, it really didn’t matter what Lightbody had intended to play at The Showbox SoDo Lounge, a venue within a venue occupying the bar area of the concert facility that frequently hosts top touring acts, from Death Cab for Cutie to Janelle Monae. These were diehard fans, some who’d driven all the way from Calgary for this, so just being in the same room with the UK act’s frontman was a privilege in itself; he could’ve read the Sunday comics for two hours and you wouldn’t have heard a complaint.
Snow Patrol is huge overseas, a band that can pack every seat in a sports arena, maybe even a soccer stadium, and domestically can sell out large theaters in a matter of minutes. They’ve toured with U2, Coldplay, and Oasis, and have been nominated for Brit Awards, Grammys, and the prestigious Mercury Music Prize. The opportunity to see and hear Lightbody in an intimate setting proved too irresistable.
After an opening set by local artist Matt Bishop, who fronts the multi-member act Hey Marseilles, Lightbody stepped on stage promptly at his scheduled time of 9:15 am and told the crowd to continue their conversations while he settled in. It was him and one guitar, that’s it. He began the show with a delicate rendition of ‘The Golden Floor’ from Snow Patrol’s A Hundred Million Suns album, from 2008. He then lightened the mood with ‘Chocolate,’ a longtime fan favorite from the group’s 2003 breakthrough record Final Straw.
Dressed casually in grey denims and charcoal-colored button down shirt with his hair puffy at shoulder length, Lightbody was very interactive with the audience throughout the concert, sharing stories, poking fun at himself, and politely jabbing one person in the front row who had placed his dinner at the foot of the stage. He also shared the inspiration behind a few of the songs, including his father and grandmother, allowing everyone to see a personal, emotional, behind-the-scenes side of Lightbody not usually on display for the general public.
The concert wasn’t entirely centered on Snow Patrol, though. Lightbody included a few numbers from Tired Pony, his side project with fellow musicians Peter Buck and Jacknife Lee, among others. ‘All Things All At Once’ was delivered beautifully, although the background harmonizing vocals from the original recording were noticeably missed; ‘Blood’ and ‘Get On the Road’ were also added to the set list.
Played acoustically for the first time was ‘If There’s a Rocket Tie Me to It,’ which Lightbody hit out of the ballpark. Glorious was his stripped down version of ‘Run,’ singing half of the second verse a cappella and letting the audience take the wheel on the chorus, though at one point he wittily said, ‘I’ll join.’ Many concertgoers also lent their voices to ‘Crack the Shutters’ and ‘Just Say Yes’; the latter closed out the main set.
As for new material, Lightbody introduced about five songs that are currently slated to appear on Snow Patrol’s next record, but it wasn’t clear if any of them had already been recorded yet. Instead of an actual set list, a sheet with numbered entries that most performers refer to when appearing live, the tall and handsome artist opted instead for a hard-bound journal that he flipped through routinely during the concert; I assume it contained handwritten lyrics and musical chords for what he planned to play in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, and a few other select cities on this brief West Coast outing.
I suspect also that the new album is still a work in progress with no anticipated release date because some of the new songs unveiled on Wednesday had working titles, or no titles at all, such as ‘Call My Name’ that received a standing ovation from several fans in the first few rows of the lounge, as did a really great tune he introduced as ‘Empress Song’ that I fell in love with instantly. Another terrific newbie with no title, or at least the title was unannounced to us, was a song that passionately recalled Lightbody’s youth, when he was discovering Belfast and taking road trips to Derry, but it also brought to the surface memorable moments that he spent with his father, whom he’s always been close to. If the new batch of songs we heard at The Showbox are any indication of what’s ahead, we’re in for a deep, soul-searching experience on Snow Patrol’s upcoming album.
The band permitted the use of its hit single ‘Just Say Yes’ for promotional purposes for Ireland’s recent same-sex marriage campaign and has solidly backed LGBT rights; Lightbody himself attended a rally in Belfast to help get the message across to voters and Snow Patrol’s official Twitter page, @SnowPatrolBand, tracked the election intently. Lightbody interviewed with Seattle Gay News in 2009. [Visit the SGN online archives at http://www.sgn.org to read the October 16, 2009 interview.]
Read the article at seattlegaynews.com.
Photo: Brett Simon