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As I watched Snow Patrol’s remarkable return to New York City on Monday night at Bowery Ballroom, it briefly occurred to me to consider penning a searing indictment on Chris Martin circa Viva La Vida, just to draw a stark comparison to Gary Lightbody – a lanky, humble, crackerjack jokester, who just so happens to front a top-tier rock band. I decided against it, of course, but Martin should start paying attention. Close attention.

I’ve long been on the Snow Patrol train, since they were Polar Bear(s), actually. What an utter joy it has been to watch a band worth every scream of the adulation it receives, climb the charts and conquer the world while retaining every ounce of the heart and believability that has endeared it to millions. The group’s excellent fifth album, A Hundred Million Suns, is a welcome journey into more experimental and upbeat territory, as evidenced by current single, the warm and romantic “Crack the Shutters.”

The evening was sponsored by WRXP and hosted by “Morning Drive” disc jockey and deserved 2008 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honoree Matt Pinfield (of MTV’s 120 Minutes, and USA’s farmClub.com among many other influential broadcasts over the years), who lovingly told the audience that he roundly considers Snow Patrol’s records to be “the soundtrack to our lives.”

Kicking things off with a rousing and fiery “If There’s a Rocket Tie Me to it” from Suns, and Final Straw favorite “Chocolate,” Snow Patrol expertly blended the new material with old tried and true staples such as “Chasing Cars” (or, “The Frog Song,” as Lightbody would refer to it), “How to be Dead,” “Run” (Leona Lewis’ version cannot touch this, sorry), and the always epic “Makes This Go On Forever,” from 2006’s Eyes Open.

Of the selections from A Hundred Million Suns, “The Golden Floor,” an electrifying “Take Back the City” (about Belfast, natch, but just as meaningful to proud New Yorkers), and “What if the Storm Ends” (part one of the 15-minute “The Lightning Strike”) are already impressively flawless in execution, so early into the band’s live promo cycle for the new record. The tender “Set Down Your Glass,” played towards the end of the set, found a solo Lightbody stage center, his rich, resonant vocals recounting a deeply personal moment in the singer’s recent past, was astonishing, and certainly now ranks with the band’s best live material; again, Chris Martin should pay attention.

Lightbody’s lightning-fast wit provided many highlights, per usual for a Snow Patrol performance, as every fan is aware. On this night, the audience was informed that the singer can be won over on dates with “some wine, some conversation and…dancing,” and, while on a date, his height at 6’3” is “good for reaching for porn off of the top shelf, or you can look at my lustrous hair.”

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The band had several very special guests on hand as well, drummer Richard Colburn of Belle & Sebastian was sitting in, and thanked with a spectacular rendition of “Crack the Shutters,” but, it was pièce de résistance “Set the Fire to the Third Bar” a duet from Eyes Open that brought out the big guns in the form of two young Snow Patrol fans from Minnesota. Visiting New York especially for the show, teenagers Alicia and Josh from Minneapolis (who gained the attention of the band via YouTube), took the stage and did what I previously only thought Martha Wainwright could do – silenced an army of Patrol maniacs with rapt attention, and when it was all over, elicited rapturous applause. My notes, upon witnessing the young Alicia slay Bowery Ballroom, read simply: “Will someone sign her please? Now.”

Sure, Snow Patrol isn’t as cool as Santogold, as fresh as Kanye with his 808’s, or even as headline-grabbing as Guns N’ Roses, and they don’t endeavor to be. What they lack in flash and swagger, they make up with heart and honesty. And in an age of vocoder-laden vocals that top the charts (ahem, Rihanna and Britney), you can’t fake that. And that’s why the fans stick around – they know it’s all real.

–Carrie Alison, Photos by Carrie Alison

 
  1. Snow Patrol’s “A Hundred Million Suns” was my fave album of the year, hands down. And I dug lead singer, Gary Lightbody’s awesome choices for best of 2008.

    His top 10 is a featured list on erockster.com, you gotta check it out.

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  2. I go to school with Alicia, and not only is she a good singer, she is a great person. She does deserve to be signed. Definitely.

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  3. [...] more Snow Patrol coverage, check our review of the December 2008 show at Bowery Ballroom, and a lengthy interview with “disaster [...]