This Belfast five-piece was hard to avoid last decade, when 2006’s Eyes Open album went triple-platinum in Australia, and it seems the same is true now.
Exactly a year and a week since they last played Sydney, a three-man version of Snow Patrol reworked the hits to a sold-out crowd, among whom the Irish accents were plentiful, and the love was palpable.
The low-key arrangements made a better case for these songs’ popularity than the originals, whose conventional stadium rock soundscapes belie their huge success.
Stripping back to keyboard, acoustic guitar and electric guitar emphasised the band’s trump card – the melodic gifts and generous spirit of singer and lyricist Gary Lightbody.
“Friends and foes and princes/Are all just human in the end”, he sang in his lilting tenor, and you can add the 43-year-old frontman to that list.
The shambling, six-foot-one Lightbody had a charming looseness, freely admitting that the folder on the music stand in front of him contained all his lyrics, and owning up when he fluffed them anyway.
The audience was more than willing and able to help with the words, the strength of their singing during 2003 breakthrough hit Run clearly taking Lightbody by surprise.
It was the kind of night where, after he taught those in the “choir” seats behind him how to sing the falsetto part for the verses of You’re All I Have, they kept doing it for the entire song.
Lightbody certainly didn’t need his folder for Life On Earth, from 2018’s Wildness album, which he revealed had taken him five years to finish as he battled depression and writers’ block.
Containing multitudes, Lightbody seemed even more invested in this minor key masterpiece than he was in the love anthems that won Snow Patrol fame. The same was true for Soon, also from Wildness, which confronted his father’s dementia and stunned the audience to silence in a solo guitar version.
Upcoming single I Think Of Home was more evidence of a return to songwriting form, reflecting on the “punched-out teeth of Irish history” before a line that won a huge cheer: “There’s one thing we can all agree on/There’s beauty north south east and west”.
What at times felt like Snow Patrol’s home-town crowd were always going to go off to the unavoidable, irresistible big hits that closed the show – Chasing Cars, Open Your Eyes and Say Yes, all played with such intensity it was easy to forget they were two men down.
It was a shame to miss out on arguably Lightbody’s greatest song, Wildness‘s tear-your-heart-out piano ballad What If This Is All The Love You Ever Get? Played as first encore in Melbourne the night before, Lightbody decided it was too much of a downer amid the euphoric hits, so instead we got Take Back The City, a Belfast tribute not as good as the new one.
All the more reason to hope a revitalised Lightbody and company are back in a year or so.
Snow Patrol play a sold-out show at the Enmore Theatre on 13 August.