Gig review: SNOW PATROL – Regent Theatre, Ipswich, 21 November 2019

Sometimes, just sometimes, true magic happens and a band clearly demonstrate the incredible power of music to change the world. With a song or even a phrase or small collection of notes or possibly just a word they can break your heart, bring joy and hope, make you glad to be alive, make you dance, make you think or save your life.

On this night of their ‘Reworked’ tour, Snow Patrol achieved just that. Augmented by an extra guitarist, an additional keyboard player, a percussionist and brass and string sections the Northern Irish five piece wrung every last drop of emotion from the audience and indelibly etched themselves into the hearts and minds of those fortunate enough to be there.

The evening was split into two halves: the first half a generally genteel affair and the second a considerably more up-tempo set, each giving a different flavour to the reworked songs aided and abetted by the supplementary musicians onstage.

Each one though brought out the lushness and heartbreaking beauty along with the joy that the tracks enjoy. It was truly a rollercoaster of emotions and encapsulated all that has made Snow Patrol so successful over their twenty-five years since forming in Dundee in 1984.

The start of the show was one of remarkable restraint and simplicity as two red spotlights pierced the darkness and a stripped down ‘Dark Roman Wine’ was started solely with one voice and one organ, the brass section subtly joining in later.

The whole was so beautifully stark as to be breathtaking and there was a moment at the end of the song where the air lay pregnant with a heavy longing before the capacity crowd erupted into applause, Gary Lightbody beaming from ear to ear at their reception. The rest of the band and ensemble strolled onstage, settling behind their instruments and the pieces of ‘You’re All I Have’ slotted into place, each person adding their own colours to the stunning and stripped-down arrangement. ‘New York’ turned up the heat somewhat, joyous and full of life, it’s cascading guitar riff getting feet tapping and heads nodding.

There was a real ease with which Lightbody built a rapport with those in the hall, everyone warming to his gentle and self-effacing in-between song dialogue and that warmth continued for the whole length of the show, a mutual show of love between the performers and audience.

‘You Could Be Happy’ was equally lovely and it was a treat to hear the seldom played ‘Warmer Climate’ but both were topped by a stunning rendition of ‘I Think of Home’, it’s atmospheric love letter to Ireland bringing a truly heart stopping and picture perfect vision of the memories and feelings engendered by this wonderful country.

A powerful display of the ability of music to not only cut through any political barriers but to bring us back to what is truly important, when Lightbody sang ‘’There’s beauty North, South, East and West’’ the audience roared with a truly heartfelt agreement to the sentiment, the lyric smashing through any perceived tribalism.

In a rush ‘Crack the Shutters’ blazed with multi-layered glory, ‘Lifening’ was filled with a stunning and deeply hammered joy and set closer ‘Take Back the City’ went from a gentle lament into a high-powered hoe-down as the violin lifted the pace into the fiery finale.

It was another gentle start to the second half of the evening with a gentle stroll through ‘Time Won’t Go Slowly’ before the familiar strains of ‘Spitting Games’ were twisted into an alternating fast / slow version, peppered with some great brass accompaniment, adding to the drama.

The brass section also played a big role in the following ‘Chocolate’, melding with acoustic guitars and percussive drumming into a heady brew as the crowd sang heartily along and ‘A Dark Switch’ rocked with a certain intent. All that though was just a warm-up to what was to come next as once more purely keys and an effects tinged lone vocal proceeded to start an incandescent ‘Run’.

It really can’t be overstated as to how this particular track seems to have caught the hearts and minds of the public and the version here performed was so moving it left many around the building with tears on their cheeks at the end of it, all hoarse with singing as the 1,550 strong crowd joined together in the anthem’s chorus.

The audience were now well and truly on their feet and ‘Heal Me’, ‘Set the Fire’ (featuring the shows M.D. Miriam Kaufman duetting with the frontman and some superb pedal steel playing), the bright, big, bold and brassy ‘Empress’ and a punchy ‘Called Out in the Dark’ kept everyone dancing as waves of light swept the auditorium.

In an evening of so many great moments it would have been almost impossible to imagine anything topping the emotional high of ‘Run’ but then the band broke into the opening lines of ‘Chasing Cars’ and the atmosphere went into overdrive.

What was already a total triumph for the band turned into a night that none who were there will ever forget when from the side of the stage an unassuming figure walked on and joined the band, the crowd equally stunned and

rapturous as local resident Ed Sheeran sang along with the first chorus. Due to the earsplitting reaction from the audience it was all but impossible to hear him over their roaring as he took the next verse but this calmed somewhat as, once again, every voice in the place was raised to sing every word of the remainder of the song, old friends Snow Patrol and Sheeran obviously having as good a time onstage as everyone in front of them.

Never someone to grab the limelight unnecessarily, the Suffolk born star hugged the band members and took his leave, letting the group finish with a blistering ‘Open Your Eyes’.

Encoring with a superb ‘What if this is All the Love’ and ‘Just Say Yes’ the night reached its final climax, both songs beautiful and full of a very raw and naked emotion. Snow Patrol: twenty-five years old and never better.

Review by Paul Monkhouse

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