Snow Patrol, Somerset House, London

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The Independent Culture

Thankfully, when Snow Patrol play that song, with its sturdy anthemics and "light up, light up" chorus, no one in the audience on this night starts waving a lighter. The crowd only adhere to the "louder, louder" bit of the chorus by singing it back at the band, in one of those big-gig moments for which the song seems to be tailor-made.

Tailor-made or not, though, it's difficult to begrudge Snow Patrol the success of "Run", partly because it is a cracking tune and partly because it has taken them so long to get a hit. The Belfast-born, Glasgow-based four-piece have been working the toilet circuit since 1998, but it wasn't until their third album, this year's pointedly titled Final Straw, that they broke big.

A sometimes bombastic but often emphatic slice of intricate guitar rock, Final Straw has earned them a Mercury prize nomination and an all-but-sold-out tour of sizeable venues this November, with bets on that they will be playing arenas soon. But "Run" may become a millstone, not least because it tends to be seen as a successor to Coldplay's "Yellow". Coupled with how Snow Patrol crept up on fame without much critical backing, the comparison has put them in the slot of "people's band" most recently occupied by Travis and Chris Martin's crew. It's a problem position because the band are capable of more sonic ambition than the interminable Coldplay and spikier lyrics than the pop-me-one platitudinous Travis.

Snow Patrol have got more live bite, too. The band's stridently charming singer, Gary Lightbody, hits the stage pogoing, as tracks such as "Wow" and "How to be Dead" burst into a wall of sound from simple beginnings with an electric swagger. And when it all starts to get a bit too anthemic, Lightbody lends the songs an intimacy with his soft voice on lyrics about love gone messy. But a certain cavorting with Coldplay-isms does begin to suggest itself, as repetition sets in and subtlety seems to be traded in for an overly arena-sized earnestness. "It's the same," Lightbody sings on the dreary "Same" - and he's right there.

In a set that barely stretches past an hour, from a band with three albums to their name, the presence of filler in a mid-gig lull raises questions. As stirring as the adoration that greets "Run" is, even something so perfect for cherishable gig "moments" will wear thin eventually - and the band had better be ready with something to fill the gap.

Thankfully, an encore of the Bunnymen-ish "Tiny Little Fractures" hits a sharper note and the band claw back some clout. As Lightbody sings: "You won't be around for ever/ You've gotta grab life with both hands," it's clear that the pleasure of seeing Snow Patrol lies in just that: watching a band grabbing their due. The nagging question is, can they run with it?

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