Snow Patrol back to anthemic best at Leeds First Direct Arena

Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody at the First Direct Arena in Leeds. Picture: ANTHONY LONGSTAFF
Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody at the First Direct Arena in Leeds. Picture: ANTHONY LONGSTAFF

“This is the first time we’ve played this lovely arena,” Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody tells a generously filled First Direct Arena in Leeds on a chilly Tuesday night, “because it wasn’t around the last time we’ve toured, it’s been that fricking long.”

Hearty chuckles abound but the gratitude that shines through from the Northern Irishman is clearly felt.

Snow Patrol haven’t played a full run of headline dates like this in the UK since early 2012 and have released only one album, last year’s Wildness, since. It’s little wonder that their lead singer was overly cautious about whether they’d still be able to pack the country’s bigger venues out.

As such, they’ve lost none of their appeal or indeed their ability to craft arena-ready post-Britpop singalongs, though they are somewhat slow to start.

Opening brace Take Back the City and Chocolate sound strangely submerged rather than rousing, with Lightbody’s delivery somewhat clipped and muted.

By Crack the Shutters however, they’ve burst out of their cocoon into dramatic, piano-swell euphoria, while the frontman locates his delicately yearning croon on pretty new ode Don’t Give In.

The 42-year-old has been forthright about his battles with depression, alcoholism and writer’s block during the group’s absence; if he still carries a fragility about him, it’s at the very least channelled to maximum effect on the powerful, haunting Run, still possessed of the breathtaking capacity to induce goosebumps all these years later.

There’s a disappointing dearth of some of their rockier offcuts but material from Wildness mostly holds its own in the shape of a near-two-hour show.

Empress and Heal Me bring stadium-sized guitar balladry to the forefront, and slot in nicely around the twinkling schmaltz of You Could Be Happy, the latter played inside a luminescent fabric cage draped over the stage, pulsating like a jellyfish, and the ubiquitous, soaring Chasing Cars, which Lightbody dedicates to boxers Josh Warrington and Carl Frampton and plays like the world’s politest terrace anthem.

But it’s in the encore, before surging electro closer Just Say Yes, where they come close to capturing their prime zeitgeist.

What If This Is All The Love You Ever Get? is Snow Patrol at their affecting, heartstring-tugging best. Lightbody alludes that he’d been worried, during the past seven years, that all the songs had dried up for him.

It certainly seems he has a few little gems left in his pocket.