Music review: In-between Snow Patrol and an all-ages show
Snow Patrol is a band in-between.
They are a lot better than a lot of other bands; but they don’t exactly come in top tier, either. I like some of their songs and albums. But their over-played hits make me want to either kill someone or kill myself.
And if I were asked to list down active touring bands that I would want to see, then I could rattle off at least 10, possibly 20, before they came to mind.
Still, it was Snow Patrol who graced Manila with their presence, and they were alright, pretty good.
Snow Patrol had tough acts to follow. First, calamitous rains that left the country dealing with a flooded metro, hundreds if not thousands of evacuees, and areas that were placed in a state of calamity.
Second, an epic performance by The Smashing Pumpkins. Really, it’s unfair to ask any act to follow the Pumpkins, especially after a-more-than-a-decade wait for the older, established band.
But the Pumpkins have flown off and the sun came out. It was Snow Patrol’s turn on the stage at the Smart Araneta Coliseum.
And it became clear that I was not exactly Snow Patrol’s target market.
Much as I may like their songs (And I do! I truly do like their songs! Please don’t hurt me!) it was very clear that their visit here was not meant to sell to the odd Snow Patrol fan like me who detests their big hits and enjoys the odd, well-written, and heartfelt album tracks. This gig was meant to cast as wide a net as possible and draw in an extremely large audience which was coming to see the hits.
Well and good for promoters and anyone else who stood to financially gain from packing the arena.
Bad for the rest of us who were looking more for an experience rather than just a “show.” There was no sense of community, no sense of attachment. I may be betraying some biases here, as I was at the previous night’s Pumpkins concert which was such an emotionally charged experience. But here, I felt that while I was there and ready to scream and dance and cheer, not a few people were around just to hear them play hits like “Chasing Cars” and a good number of people probably just wanted to hear “Just Say Yes.” And some people, including some of the lolas I saw shuffling about, could probably care less for Snow Patrol’s smartly crafted pop songs.
But give it up for Snow Patrol as the band is masterful in its ability to craft earworm-inducing, incredibly catchy pop songs. It’s this material that makes its way to the radio, and it’s this airplay that leads to this big live performance in the Smart-Araneta Coliseum. They know how to write great hooks, they know how to put together melodies, and when they shoot for the anthemic, Snow Patrol can be relied on to deliver.
And there’s the rub as Snow Patrol is a genuinely good band that is both over-played and under-appreciated. I was sold when I first heard the free-associating lyrics coupled with a delicate, layered arrangement of “How to be Dead” off their first major label album Final Straw. I held on for the pop Eyes Open, and I found myself largely enjoying the underrated A Hundred Million Suns which yielded two of my favorite tracks that I wish they had played that night: “Engines” and “The Planets Bend Between Us.”
However, the crowd hankered for songs like “Chasing Cars,” so ubiquitous on the radio that even though I initially liked it, I now hate it with a vengeance. They appreciate this radio-friendly material so much that they would lug entire families, kids in their roller-shoes, tweens, parents and, even the grandparents. Uh-oh, I’m in an all-ages show.
I thought I could consider Snow Patrol a rock band. But after seeing this and seeing that they were now a family friendly act, it was clear that they could not be considered a rock band. After all, one of the great and exciting components of all good rock is a sense of danger, a sense of something challenging and pushing barriers. There is nothing dangerous about Snow Patrol.
Someone say boy band? Boy band they are not as Frontman Gary Lightbody’s wiry frame and awkward onstage movements make for a dynamic figure, very unboy-band-like. Good thing.
Good thing too that the rest of the band knows how to rock. Sure they may not be playing dangerous rock and roll, but within their pop-rock limitations, they do bring quality technical skill. There are no face-melting solos, no big instrumental moments, but the band plays tight and solid, and giving credit where credit is due, they know how to put on a show.
The projected background images behind the band are another story, ranging from the too literal to the downright cheesy. For the literal: Snow Patrol, right? Animations of animals known to inhabit polar regions, get it? For the cheesy: during “Just Say Yes”, the word “yes” flutters about the screen. Hey! Someone turn that bleepity-bleep screen off and just let the band play!
And it gets more grotesque as the band starts playing material from their new album – an unsuccessful foray into dance music. The album’s title track, “Fallen Empires” is Snow Patrol’s attempt at dubstep. Apparently dubstep plus Snow Patrol equals something oddly akin to a jarring-kind of 90s House music.
Of course the crowd did not seem to mind. Either they were too young to remember 90s House music, or they were already too old by then to be going to clubs. This was a chance for people to break out the glow sticks and the bunny ears that lit up. There was some dancing I suppose, but more than anything I registered bewilderment.
The missteps of experimentation could easily be forgiven though as Snow Patrol returned to surer footing with their version of straight up rock songs. A particularly sweet moment was “Lifening,” a gear-change that left an optimistic and unabashedly uplifting taste in the mouth.
It pretty much stayed that way for the rest of the show. I was a little disappointed that they skipped some great material, particularly “Spitting Games”. But they played to the crowd for the most part, to resounding results. There were the expected sing-alongs and the couples staring into each others’ eyes as they sang along to certain songs.
And well, there was me, stuck between wanting to give myself up to the experience and asking rhetorically, “What experience?” I suppose it’s like the famous essay about speaking in tongues where everyone is taken by the spirit and I just could not get it. I could not give myself up to it.
I was probably too far in between things. — DVM/KG, GMA News
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