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Live Review: Snow Patrol

Photo by Sarah Spohn.

Thankfully, Michiganders didn’t have to brave any cold temperatures or snowy conditions to make it out to the Snow Patrol concert on Saturday, May 4th at Royal Oak Music Theatre. The band’s live performance showed off the masterfully crafted pieces, along with some new songs by the Northern Ireland fivepiece. After a seven year hiatus, their live show full proved Snow Patrol is not feeling too weathered to play those fan faves and familiar radio hits of yesteryear.

The night provided two openers, first up was Ryan McMullan, also from Northern Ireland. The singer-songwriter performed to a nearly-full theater, and impressed the crowd with his raspy vocals. Apparently, he was sick (as noted by both following bands), but sounded great to me.

The second opener was New York rock band, We Are Scientists, by way of their Berkeley, CA roots. I can sense both of their locales from their tunes — while some sound reminiscent of those sunshine-y Weezer days, others have a more modern indie NY basement bar feel to them.

The band exhibits an impressive amount of energy during their set, especially given the gang is only made up of two people: Keith Murray (vocals, guitar), and Chris Cain (bass guitar).

We are Scientists walked onto the stage while “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffet was playing — letting the crowd know they were ready to party. Their bouncy performance made me wonder if early names for the band included something along the lines of We are Here to Party, or We are a Jolly Good Time. Their song, “One In, One Out” relied heavily on 80’s-inspired synth sounds, and exemplified their feel-good party tune vibe.

Murray referred to Royal Oak as cognition city, stating that it seemed everyone here were real thinkers, leading him to come up with some of his own observations and theories. Maybe he is in fact, a scientist? One thing is for sure,during their 8-song set, they won me over. I too, believe in science.

Up next was the headliner, that big bold name on the bright marquee, which an entire sold-out crowd was waiting for: Snow Patrol. This was their first tour, after a seven-year hiatus, following the release of their new album, “Wilderness,” and fans’ anticipation was eager.

The Northern Ireland five piece band (Gary Lightbody, Nathan Connolly, Paul Wilson, Johnny McDaid, Jonny Quinn) put on a decade-spanning, and performance ranging emotions — songs about heartbreak, second chances, not giving up, and hope for the future.

During the hiatus, various interviews included talks of Gary Lightbody (vocals) dealing with some heavy topics, including sobriety. There wasn’t much banter in between songs to give any context, or personal anecdotes, which felt like their live concert was lacking in that area a bit. The music was orchestrated perfectly, the band was in sync, it was a great sounding and visual performance (lighting and screens were clear) — but it just didn’t evoke much feeling/reactions, even after the band left the stage.

The band sounds great, Gary sounds like the studio recordings and radio hits we know, which is good. But it’s not a GREAT live show. Highlights included piano performances, the rarely-played “Dark Roman Wine,”which was a nice surprise. The group’s harmonies and vocals were impressive on “Chocolate,” and the piano parts by Johnny McDaid on “Crack the Shutters” were beautiful.

Photo by Sarah Spohn.

Of course, the familiar mainstays made me forget about the missing in-between stories about the songs. The crowd singalong of “Open Your Eyes,” and the ever-so-popular 2006 radio hit, “Chasing Cars” were nice moments, where the crowd felt united, and the band looked happy. I’ve seen shows where the fan faves appear to be the band’s absolute least-favorite song in the world.

The group, who’s celebrating their 25th year of being a band didn’t reveal any lackluster feelings toward the fan faves, if they are in fact, sick of playing those songs — it wasn’t evident. Perhaps the seven-year-hiatus helped.

Over all, Snow Patrol is a well-oiled machine in a live concert setting, but there’s a bit of rawness,realness; that less-rehearsed feel that was amiss throughout the 17-song set. The last song of the encore was “Just Say Yes” — which left the crowd on a positive note — encouraging opening up, and embracing that scary vulnerability — something WE ALL could learn from.

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Sarah Spohn

Sarah's a little bit of a rock 'n' roll rebel, almost always at a concert. She loves to soak up the scene, immersed in the music journalism world, still buys CDs and rents music documentaries from the library. Just don't call her a hipster. She's never been that stylish.

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