London, England, Tuesday morning
So, what was it like to see British rockers Snow Patrol promote the release of their new album, A Hundred Million Suns, by playing four intimate shows in four cities in two days?
Well, that’s a good, if surprisingly detailed, question. The answer? It was a lot of fun. True, singer Gary Lightbody and crew didn’t feel obliged to change their sets too much as they traversed the British Isles, from Dublin to Belfast and, yesterday, from Edinburgh to London. But then, the only people to see the “Chasing Cars” quintet on each occasion were a few competition-winning fans and a clutch of journalists. And the venues themselves were decidedly diverse. As previously reported Snow Patrol kicked off the whole shebang with a Sunday lunchtime show in a Dublin theater – where they played in front of the set for the play Hedda Gabler –- before moving on to the more rambunctious environs of Belfast’s Empire Hall. On Monday lunchtime, the band played at Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms, an austere wood-paneled venue whose history dates back to 1783. Lightbody’s response to his surroundings? “I’m going to say ‘s—’” he informed the audience, before performing new song “Please Just Take These Photos From My Hands.” “It probably hasn’t been said in this room before.”
Following the show we embarked on a seemingly endless journey toLondon: a real Planes, Trains And Automobiles-type jaunt that mightactually have been improved by waking up to discover you’ve beenspooning with John Candy. But last night’s show at the BloomsburyTheatre – which usually hosts comedians and student plays -– made itworthwhile with the always up-for-it Lightbody on notably puckish form.“We’re going to play some new stuff, we’re going to play some oldstuff,” he declared at the start. “We’re going to have some guests. AndI’m going to give a talk about something. Steam engines!”
Though thepromised engineering lecture never materialized no one seemed to mindas the band did indeed mix up older tracks, notably “Chasing Cars,”with fresher material from dainty opening lament “Set Down Your Glass”to the final, thunderous, “Take Back The City.” Meanwhile, the promisedguests included Ian Archer, Lightbody’s musical colleague in indiesupergroup Reindeer Section, who joined a live line-up already expandedfor this tour to include percussionist Richard Colburn from Belle AndSebastian. The set could only have been better had Lightbodyhimself stripped naked, which in previous, boozier, days he was knownto do (the singer’s self-destructive side is referenced in the aptlynamed A Hundred Million Suns track “Disaster Button”). Instead, thesinger contented himself with mock-threatening audience members in theupper circle for not singing along to his tunes with sufficient gusto:“I can see you! I KNOW some of you! If you don’t sing, there will bewords!”
Yes, folks, I’ve had some fun. But, hypothetically, would I want tosee ANOTHER two Snow Patrol shows today? Well, let’s just say that it’sdefinitely possible to have too much of a good thing. Or, as onecompetition winner, and jet-lagged Los Angeleno, announced at the endof last night’s show, “They’re an amazing band. I’ve had an awesometime. But I am DONE.”