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Snow Patrol : Belfast Mandela Hall

A triumphant return...

Snow Patrol  :  Belfast Mandela Hall

They might have been at the centre of Glasgow's indie power bloc for years, but, as everyone in tonight's crowd is proud to remember, Snow Patrol are actually from Belfast. In biblical times people used to slay fatted calves when prodigal sons returned home after seeking their fortunes. Tonight they wave lighters, but you get the point.


Anyway, after six years of knocking on the door with good rather than great records, Snow Patrol bundled all the disappointment and disaffection into one final roll of the dice, going stellar with 'Run' and becoming one of the biggest-selling bands of 2004. So tonight is a celebration, a proud
'Go on, ya bastards!' from the home crowd. More importantly, it's also a look to see whether or not after so long in the hinterland, Snow Patrol can last the distance as Rock Stars.


"I can't tell you how happy we are to be here, how
important this show is to us," says Gary Lightbody to a roar that takes your breath away. The mile-wide smile doesn't leave his face all night, even when he's singing songs about guilt and self-loathing and the women he's wronged. And bearing
in mind that when Snow Patrol open up Lightbody has a habit of pogoing like an eel in a sock, he cuts a wonderfully, maniacally happy figure.
This show is all about tunes from breakthrough album
'Final Straw'. 'Same' is a gleaming heartbreaker, 'Somewhere A Clock Is Ticking' and 'How To Be Dead' are widescreen pop epics and new single 'Chocolate''s chugging-machine-indie is the equal of 'Pounding' by Doves. Though influences are still evident, especially Lightbody's debt to Lou Barlow and Arab Strap, they are heard as echoes rather than blatant references. Snow Patrol have grown into a band with a sound and focus
of their own.


Lightbody promises more old songs the next time he's back, but he shouldn't feel such a strange obligation. The band's new material outstrips the old by such a long way that when they work through the likes of 'Starfighter Pilot', some drift sets in. They sound like a sophisticated band of substance covering something their less successful, less inventive pals have written. Only the complex and jarring 'Black & Blue' bucks the trend.


'Run', of course, is the moment when the future unfurls
for Da Patrol. As they knock into the chorus, 800 voices
bathed in yellow light sing back every word. It's a hair-prickling moment, moving and joyful. Lightbody looks like he's just become a father, the other members smile wide. It's immediately easy to see this being replicated in front of audiences 20 times the size come the summer festivals.
And while some will argue that Snow Patrol are following
the Coldplay formula (and their yearning anthems do, in fairness, share common ground), that kind of misses the point. Snow Patrol are no gormless wannabes; they've served their indie apprenticeship, and in Gary Lightbody they have a unique and troubled frontman: odd, engaging and brimming with the sort of latent sex appeal that, when it explodes, turns men into superstars.


A well-deserved triumph, then, but tonight has to signal the end of the backslapping honeymoon. Snow Patrol have the tools in the bag to become honest-to-god international stars. It's time to stand up and use them.

Paul McNamee

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