Tomorrow evening Snow Patrol will step onto the stage at Ward Park in Bangor – a gig which marks the band’s 25th anniversary.
However lead singer Gary Lightbody sees it as more of a celebration of local musical talent than solely about his headlining band.
We spoke to Gary last month as the band were about to start their US tour ahead of their third concert in their ‘home’ venue in the Co Down seaside town.
The band had been off the radar for a considerable period before their triumphant return with seventh studio album The Wildness.
Gary said: “We’ve been away for seven years and are only back on the road just coming up to a year.
“We’re playing our own shows in the States for the first time in seven years.
“It’s a great run up to Ward Park. It’s going to sharpen us right up.
“We were rusty maybe to begin with. I don’t think we came out completely swinging in April last year, but I still think the shows were good.
“There’s an old adage in music – a gig is worth 10 rehearsals.
“You can only do so much in rehearsals, I think you need those gigs to get you up to speed again. I think we got up to speed fairly quickly.
“If we’re not sharp by now we never will be. I think we are.
“We’re playing better than we ever were. Anyone who saw us in Belfast last December (in the SSE Arena) – we’ve come on even leaps and bounds since then.
“I think we’re as good as we’ve ever been, but that’s just me saying that. We need an independent observer to see whether I’m telling the truth or not.”
Over the last 25 years Snow Patrol have released seven albums and racked up an impressive number of critical and commercial accolades, including 13 million global album sales, one billion global track streams, five UK Platinum Albums, and are Grammy and Mercury Music Prize nominated.
During their last US tour, in support of Ed Sheeran, the band had to avail of a police escort to get to a gig in Dallas. The drama formed part of a BBC NI documentary on the band which was aired recently.
Gary said: “That happened during Ed Sheeran tour, the guys from BBC NI came on the US tour. They also came on UK and Ireland tour and some European dates.
“Myself and Johnny McDaid flew in from LA to Dallas, the flight was delayed by three hours. We were going to miss our stage time so the Dallas police very kindly gave us an escort. A journey that should have taken an hour and a half took 20 minutes.
“It was one of the most thrilling things ever. They were doing crazy things like driving over the central reservation. It was bonkers.”
From high-speed driving, to horseback riding, Gary discussed his appearance in season three of Game of Thrones which concluded after eight seasons earlier this week: “I was in episode three of season three. I was in it for 10 seconds. There’s a procession on horseback, Jamie Lannister and Brienne of Tarth are at the back tied up. I was at the front singing a song. It’s a wide shot, blink and you’ll miss me, but it was great fun.”
More recently, Gary and Nathan Connolly from Snow Patrol have teamed up with businessmen and culinary experts Andy Rea and Stevie Haller to open a Mexican restaurant on the Ormeau Road – La Taqueria.
Admitted Gary: “It’s started really well. When the first press came out I’m sure there were people asking what the hell do Gary and Nathan know about Mexican restaurants. They were right to ask that question. We’re just fans of La Taqueria, the first one.
“When we heard they were opening a second location we asked if we could get involved. We’re not involved in any day to day running, we’re very much in the shadows.”
Snow Patrol’s American tour finished on Tuesday, with the band returning to Northern Ireland on Thursday, two days before Ward Park 3.
Asked what will be different about their third outing at the venue, Gary revealed: “We’re planning something pretty spectacular in terms of staging and lighting.
“We’re hoping that the show is the most spectacular we’ve ever put on.
“It’ll certainly be the most spectacular of the three Ward Park shows. That’s a pretty high bar.
“In terms of the set list, we’ll see what we can come up with in terms of surprises.
“The gig itself is more about celebrating Northern Irish music, and that is the most important thing on the day.
“We want to celebrate the best in Northern Ireland at a time when perhaps some other things are going against us.
“Northern Irish culture – music, art, film, sport – is something to celebrate.”
Ward Park 3 will see Snow Patrol supported by a host of local bands, including Two Door Cinema Club, Foy Vance, Ash, SOAK, Jealous of the Birds and Brand New Friend.
There will also be a second stage curated by Snow Patrol and Gary Lightbody’s NI artist development company, Third Bar, with up and coming artists including JC Stewart, The Wood Burning Savages, Kitt Philippa and ROE showcasing the future of the NI music scene.
Tonight, before Ward Park 3, a host of Bangor bars will host a range of free gigs.
Open House Festival have joined forces with Snow Patrol to curate a line-up of exciting bands, musicians and electronic DJs from 10pm in The Goat’s Toe, Donegan’s, Hop House, Fealty’s, Wolsey’s, Rabbit Rooms, The Jamaica Inn and Jenny Watts.