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Harbus Reviews:

I was excited last week. No wait, that is a horrendous understatement. I was extatic last week. A small child on Christmas Eve wasn’t half as excited as I was. The fat kid who’s just won a lifetime supply of chocolate cake had nothing on me. The excitement felt by a die hard Red Sox fan whose team are five outs away from the World Series would not have even registered. Why was I so excited you might ask? Well one of my favourite bands came a rolling into Boston to play a live gig at the Paradise Rock Club on Commonwealth.

Now this is meant to be an impartial review of the gig, but to be honest there is no chance of that. You see (begin massive understatement), I quite like this band, and as such was never not going to like this gig. Put another way, I’d annoyed far too many people this summer on my travel to and from work, by accompanying Snow Patrol’s latest album with my out-of-time foot tapping, and out-of-tune warbling, to miss this. Now I personally feel these actions added to and complemented their music perfectly, and that they enriched the commutes of my fellow travellers. But judging by the death stares and ‘accidental elbows’ I received, my fellow commuters seemed to disagree.

But I digress…
First a little background. Snow Patrol, for those of you in the dark, and lets face it there are probably only one of two of you who have even heard of this band, let alone considered buying a ticket to one of their gigs, are quite possibly the next big thing. And I don’t mean next big thing in a weird, inaccessible, frankly pretentious kind of way. No, Snow Patrol are the next big thing in a solid, middle of the road, pop rock kind of way. Great songs, simple lyrics, stunning sound. They have hum-ability coming out of every pore, if that is possible.

They hail originally from Northern Ireland, but we’ll let that slide, and have been around a few years. For example their latest album, Final Straw, although regarded by many as their first, is in fact their third. Reaching into my back pocket for reviewer clich‚ number 65, I can quite happily say that Snow Patrol are ‘loved by fans and critics alike’. My data: they recently headlined the Glastonbury festival, a 100,000 person yearly musical smorgasbord held in Somerset (that’s fan power right there), and were nominated for the Shortlist prize in the US and the Mercury Music Prize in the UK (hello critical acclaim.) In addition Final Straw has gone multi-platinum in the UK. So why, you say, if they are so big and successful, have you never heard of them?

Well if you are an iTunes nut you may already own a Snow Patrol track. A few months ago, the ‘free track of the week’ was their song “Spitting Games”. Go on, put the paper down and go check your iTunes library, I’ll wait for you to get back… Done that?… Good… Found the song? Yes?. Excellent. Now I suggest you hit play on your iPOD while you read the rest of this, it’ll make a great review even better. (modest who me?)
So onto the actual gig.

Was it a good gig? Yes. Was it a great gig? No. Was this the result of any intrinsic flaw in the band? No. The sound mixing for the first few tracks was off, the guitars overpowering the lead singer’s vocals. Once this was fixed though, everything from there on rocked. Was it a gig to live long in the memory? Oh Yes.

So why was it so good? The short answer is great songs, that can be reproduced very well live, and a charismatic and engaging front man. There is variety and contrast throughout the Snow Patrol set. “Chocolate”, driven on by the guitar and drum; “Same” slowed down and full of emotion; “Spitting Games” ending the show with a hurricane-like chorus; and before it, the anthemic “Run” providing one of those magical moments that occasionally hit gigs, when the lead singer steps away from the microphone for the final chorus and basks in his song being sung back at him by every voice in the house.

Snow Patrol have been dubbed the new Coldplay by a few lazy minds. It’s wrong for so many reasons, but also shows the high company in which this band now move. They are a band at the start of their journey and are learning their stage craft, and their showmanship. They write great songs, and hopefully will continue to do so for several more years.

September 27, 2004
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