By Ed Power
Snow Patrol, Cork Opera House
Incredibly, it’s seven years since Snow Patrol’s last album.
If the Northern Ireland band’s absence hasn’t really been felt, perhaps that’s because the huggable stadium pop they pioneered has become rock’s lingua franca – the default for everyone from Hozier to Ed Sheeran.
Along with Coldplay, their peers and rivals, they ushered in a new era in which rock music was refashioned as a largely positive force – a balm for the soul rather than a brickbat hurled through the windscreen of the establishment.
The hiatus wasn’t entirely voluntary. Singer Gary Lightbody became bogged down with writer’s block in his new home of Los Angeles, his predicament not helped by a deepening dependency on alcohol.
The happy ending is that he knocked the drinking on the head two years ago while Snow Patrol have rallied with their muscular new album, Wildness.
After so long away, it would have been indulgent to batter fans with unfamiliar new material – as the group understood as they continued a short tour of intimate Irish venues.
With Lightbody centre stage, his floppy curls bouncing under the spotlight, the quintet opened with the heart-on-sleeve double punch of Open Your Eyes and Chocolate.
Visibly buoyed by the shouty, sing-along audience, Lightbody confidently introduced new single Empress – a classic Snow Patrol moment in which strident guitars and vulnerable lyrics come together to produce a heart on sleeve epic.
The track was kindly received by the sell-out room, as was Don’t Give In, a slow-burner half a decade in the writing (“it feels good to finally get it out there,” said Lightbody).
With Wildness not released until May 25 it’s as yet too early to predict how the material will stand up alongside Snow Patrol’s best-loved moments.
Yet it was notable that the atmosphere became supercharged as Lightbody and the band reached for 'Run', the early smash that sealed their transformation from striving (and starving) underdogs to big league rock stars.
That was the first chapter in their assault on the charts. Whether they can replicate such success with their latest LP only time will tell, though the omens here were certainly positive.
Touring: Dublin Olympia, Tuesday; National Opera House, Wexford, Wednesday; Leisureland Galway, Friday.