Homecoming concert full of jokes, stories and emotion
It’s been almost two years since Snow Patrol last played Belfast, but for the fans — and the band — their absence feels longer.
The regularity of the shows staged by the Co Down/Derry hybrid meant Northern Irish gig-goers were spoilt, complacent even.
Over the years the band rewarded the local fans’ loyalty with three huge Ward Park shows, sell-out arena dates, acoustic gigs in intimate venues, and Christmas concerts to herald the start of the festive season.
In December 2019, Snow Patrol brought their Reworked show to the Waterfront Hall — six months on from Ward Park 3.
That was to be their last date on home soil before Covid-19 hit.
Fast forward to March 2020 and the world was in turmoil.
Lockdown had a devastating impact on live music as concerts were cancelled or rescheduled due to the ongoing pandemic.
But if there’s been one silver lining for the sector, it’s a renewed appreciation for live music and that was clearly seen from Snow Patrol’s acoustic homecoming show on Tuesday night.
Frontman Gary Lightbody, guitarist Nathan Connolly and multi-instrumentalist Johnny McDaid returned to the stage at the Waterfront Hall to a rapturous reception from the fans, many of whom were back at a gig for the first time in nearly two years.
For Snow Patrol, it was important to include Belfast and Derry, which they play on Thursday night, as part of a series of gigs to mark their live circuit return.
The gigs were hastily organised when the dates became free and Lightbody “jumped at the chance” to play them.
Tickets for the two shows sold out in 10 minutes flat — proof, if needed, that the appetite for gigs is still strong, perhaps stronger.
As the trio took to the stage it was hard to tell who was more excited to be there, the fans or the band.
A beaming Lightbody told the seated audience: “Hello Belfast! How’s it going?” before launching into the set with crowd pleaser Chocolate from their Final Straw album.
He apologised for a slight mistake and after performing Crack the Shutters, admitted he had a lyric prompt on stage, saying: “I wrote these lyrics 25 years ago. I didn’t think I’d still need to know them now.”
The ballad Run was dedicated to Northern Irish music agent Steve Strange, who died last month after a short illness.
Paying tribute to their friend, an emotional Lightbody said Strange was “one of the most extraordinary human beings we’ve ever known” and said he would always be loved and remembered.
The reaction from the fans said it all as they joined in with him at full volume.
With a range of sonic accompaniments, the three musicians brought the audience on a journey through their back catalogue of albums from Final Straw to the 2018 offering, Wildness.
The usual fan favourites were there, Empress, Chasing Cars, Don’t Give In and This Isn’t Everything You Are.
The tempo was slowed down for Set the Fire to the Third Bar and quickened up again for You’re All I Have.
Snow Patrol’s set was peppered with funny stories, self deprecating jokes and recollections from Lightbody, bringing band members and audience even closer together in the intimate surroundings.
The one-and-a-half-hour performance was exciting in that it was the highest profile indoors show in what seems like a lifetime and yet comforting, like meeting up with old friends who you haven’t seen for a while.
After such a long period of near silence, Snow Patrol took back the city — and Belfast said yes.