Two days after the release of their debut album The Place We Ran From, Tired Pony are ready for their first ever gig. Variously described as a super-group, a side project and a folly, the need-to-know facts are that the band’s primary members include Snow Patrol frontman Gary Lightbody and R.E.M. mainstay Peter Buck.
As young (like, really young) upstart support band Jonquil perform a blinding set of Wild Beasts-y material, a sense of anticipation starts building towards the main event. Although a lot of the fans here are probably Snow Patrol fanatics, the anticipation is infectious. After all, Snow Patrol did, and this may be controversial, have some good tracks. They just got buried under the hideous behemoth that is Chasing Cars.
The procession of players arrive to take their places among the millions of instruments lying around the stage. Lightbody is, as always, a genial and good-humoured frontman. Buck is ridiculously recognisable through his greying curtains. But despite his pedigree he remains simply a guitarist and mandolinist tonight as this is really Lightbody’s show. In fact there’s little point referring to Buck or Belle and Sebastian (their member Richard Colburn is on drums) from now on as there’s no point pretending that this isn’t simply a bunch of Lightbody songs with a different bunch of performers playing them.
It’s true that there is some Americana country influence, but even with all those instrumentalists, this ain’t a hoedown. This is earnest songwriting. From the opening Northwestern Skies, the same irritant about Snow Patrol turns up again – the reliance on repeating a melodic hook again and again AND AGAIN until, what, we submit to it? Those of us who didn’t submit before probably won’t submit this time either.
But you know about the songs – you’ve read about, or even listened to, the album. You should know what to expect musically. They’re played well by a collective of excellent musicians. The point of a gig review is to let you know what extras are offered by seeing them play in person.
Well, actually there are quite a few. There are special guests. The always wonderful Lisa Hannigan takes Zooey Deschanel‘s part in Get On The Road, although they may as well have just got Martha Wainwright in and sang the similar but superior Set The Fire To The Third Bar. Hannigan also takes lead vocals on a cover of Chain Of Fools in a rare moment of genuine passion and intensity. Lightbody also gets upstaged by another guest. Editors‘ Tom Smith at least turns up in person and, in fine booming form, sings his track The Good Book. Special mention should go to his girlfriend Edith Bowman who apparently did some backing vocals during the encore (but we couldn’t see her and didn’t recognise her), but you know, that means she didn’t stand out in a bad way either.
There are also songs that you won’t hear on the album. Silver Atoms is a rare injection of pace and rock into an evening of otherwise tepid mid-tempo. The album would have benefitted massively from its inclusion. More of this please gentlemen.
A further nice “gig” moment eventuates when sound problems lead six guitarists, a double bass player, a violinist and a Hannigan to edge to the front of the stage, put all microphones and amps aside and play a totally acoustic Point Me To Lost Lands.
The best tracks were the ones not on the album and the best singers were the ones not in Snow Patrol. The weak point of Lightbody’s vision is unfortunately Lightbody himself.