Snow Patrol review – drifting along in a clinical quest for love

O2 Arena, London
The band’s popularity is undiminished but listening to their precision-engineered arena rock is like drowning in candyfloss

Snow Patrol have been away but absence has not dimmed their mass appeal. This first tour for seven years, in support of last year’s moderately received Wildness album, finds them able to fill London dates at both the O2 and Wembley Arena. “It’s bonkers!” reflects singer Gary Lightbody, entirely correctly.

Their popularity has not altered, nor has their modus operandi. They remain masters of a strain of clinical, post-Coldplay arena rock in which every dramatic swell, every tasteful eruption, is forensically calculated. It is intensely formulaic, and yet it is a formula that many less skilled bands have failed to master.

Lightbody has admitted to battling depression and heavy drinking during the group’s hiatus, yet such issues are scarcely reflected in Wildness’s pristine surfaces. A standout track and single, Empress, played early tonight, could be a PowerPoint presentation in how to custom build a rousing, non-specific angst anthem that sounds great bouncing off arena rafters. It’s immaculate precision engineering.

Melodies come easily to Snow Patrol. Words do not. The likable Lightbody has confessed that “the lyrics will never catch up with the music”, and wading through Snow Patrol words is to drown in candy floss. From the stage, he describes a new song, Life on Earth, as the track he is proudest to have penned. “It’s just life on Earth,” the chorus trills. “It doesn’t need to be the end of you and me.”

Lightbody is forever straining to capture the rapt, oceanic feeling of love, yet his band have zero visceral intensity. Their neat, plodding earnestness and faux soul-baring inevitably pall. During a very long mid-set lull between their sleek bangers such as Run and Chasing Cars, the soporific Shut Your Eyes sounds not just an interminable bombastic vacuum, but also extremely useful short-term advice.

It’s all beautifully turned but way too efficient and opportunistic. It’s an interview cliche for bands to say they are making soundtracks for movies that have never been made. Snow Patrol are making music for movies that probably will be made and they would very much like to be on the soundtrack, please.

• At International Centre, Bournemouth, on 27 January, and First Direct Arena, Leeds, on 29 January. Then touring.


Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

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