'Friday on stage with U2, Sunday on stage with REM. Does it get any better?'
On the opening night of the three Dublin shows, they got one of the biggest receptions of any of the many support acts who have been playing with U2 on the European leg. No surprise perhaps, with songs like Run and Chocolate, tens of thousands of fans were all ready to sing along - even if they were waiting for the main attraction. Snow Patrol, who are playing more U2 shows than any act, are also the biggest of U2 fans too. Just before they went on stage in Manchester, lead singer Gary Lightbody talked to U2.Com about what it's like opening for the world's biggest band, how long they took to decide to accept the invitation, what they have picked up on the road so far ... and how you keep the passion alive!
U2.com: After the Brussels show the other night, your first with U2, you seemed like you weren't sure if you had connected with the Belgian audience ?
SP: We had lots of problems on stage and we were quite nervous playing with U2 - it only happens once in a lifetime for a band like us. If there ever was a time for the jitters, that was it! But your first show with U2 - how can you not enjoy it ? Then getting to see them play after we'd finished, that blew us away - we realised how it can be done, how it should be done. It was a master class in stadium performing and production.
U2.com: A couple of nights later you were supporting REM at the top of the bill for the Isle of Wight Festival and you went down a storm?
SP: That was 50,000 people singing along, a bit of a weird one. The Isle of Wight festival last year was the first time we had played to that size of crowd and connected on such a massive scale. It was after The Final Straw had taken off and for us it was the first indication that people were getting into the band. This year it was even better!
It never ceases to amaze me... all these people singing your songs. It had been miserable all day and when we played Run, the crowd took over the last bit of singing and as they sang - no word of a lie - the sun came out. I was gobsmacked, people just cheered and cheered for what felt like days. I turned round and Michael Stipe was at the side of the stage grinning from ear to ear. Friday on stage with U2, Sunday on stage with REM... does it get any better?
I hope that feeling stays with me for ever. Actually I'm the type of person who it probably will stay with! I'm not a pessimist but we've been doing this for years and to finally have some success, we know not to take it for granted.
U2.com: Playing to such huge audiences, is it a little scary up there ?
SP: Generally, just walking on a stage built for U2 is scary. You are reminded everywhere you turn who you are playing with. For a band like us, you are always aware of the magnititude of the situation - and you want to savour it.
We're doing eight shows with them this summer and we want to remember every minute - we even have a film crew with us so that we can play it to our kids and say, 'Really we did it, we really played with U2!'
We're not expecting to blow away the audiences - they have bought tickets to see U2 and we are the warm up act. It's just an honour to share the stage with them. When they asked us if we would like to play with them it was about the quickest reply any band could ever have made
Have they been influential at all for Snow Patrol down the years ?
SP: Of course: ever since The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum, which I think was the first rockumentary that I watched. I remember wondering at the mechanics of the band, seeing footage of Shea Stadium, all the great pieces in that show, a band on top of their game and top of the world. And 20 years later they are still there, on those biggest stages, still doing it and still perfectly relevant as well. It's a blueprint to strive for, one that no other band will probably ever attain. I saw U2 live just once on Popmart but never imagined we could be up there too one day, you've love to be up there but you dont think that would happen!
U2.com: What is there to learn for a band like Snow Patrol, arguably on the brink of mush wider recognition, from U2 ?
SP: I was watching them soundcheck in Brussels and I saw that Bono especially was heavily involved in choosing the video and making sure the lighting was in sync. They don't just play the music and delegate to others, they are all interested in the detail and it impresses me that they have all these resources and yet remain passionate about how they are perceived and come across.
Another thing about playing with them is that it makes you keep your feet on the ground - you realise you are still a very young and developing band and that you have to work a lot harder at it. It's a perfect time for us to go into writing an album, seeing a band on full tilt like U2. It makes me rejoice that you don't have to lose your passion like so many bands do after a few years.
U2.com: You've got several dozen songs on the go in the writing process - how does the process of recording work in Snow Patrol?
SP: When we finish with U2 in Amsterdam we will go over to Ireland to work through songs we are developing. Then we'll end up writing some more and go into the studio in September. We want to finish recording by the end of the year and have the album out next year.
U2.com: Snow Patrol are also on the bill for Live 8 and you've been doing some appearances to promote Make Poverty History.
SP: Since being made aware of Make Poverty History by Emma Freud and Richard Curtis at the Band Aid 20 thing, I've become very involved with the campaign mentally - and I probably could do a lot more physically. I think Gordon Brown (UK Chancellor) has made a great start with dropping 100% of the debt for 18 countries but we now have to get everyone to edge up to the UN agreed targets of 0.7% in aid. It's such a ridiculously small number, people should really be coerced into it!
U2.com: What difference can a rock band make in this kind of campaign?
SP: Sometimes I am a bit wary of speaking too much about it as I am not yet well informed enough but even if we can get some more people to think about the issues, to wear the wristband, to become more educated about what is happening in Africa - that is something at least.
U2.com: Has there been a favourite moment on the tour so far ?
SP: As the sun came down in Brussels they played City of Blinding Lights and I love that song anyway. Then to play 'Streets' and 'Pride' back to back, what a double-punch! We have the drive and passion to stick at it like they do, we've been eleven years already... but I don't know if we will go the full thirty!