Date: Monday 19th November 2018
Review By: Beandog
Photography By: Inty Malcolm
I’m proud to acknowledge myself and my gig partner this evening as close-as-dammit to veteran Therapy? fans. While we make the bitter walk from the train station, along Brighton seafront to the venue, we reminisce on our teenage years.
As youngsters in our own band, we’d hashed together a semi-passable version of Therapy?’s Potato Junkie which we would thrash out on our cheap equipment. Around the same time, our Saturday nights were spent at Croydon’s Stairway nightclub, where DJ Linton would shape our tastes, giving us our first experience of many classic metal bands. At the time there was a brand new and emerging grunge scene in which Linton was a man of impeccable taste. He knew how to mix the popular alternative, like Faith No More and Red Hot Chili Peppers, with lesser known left-of-centre acts such as Consolidated, Murder Inc and Cop Shoot Cop.
In amongst all of this, one of the surefire floor-filler’s came from a young three piece from Northern Ireland.
Teethgrinder was an anthem to us. Marginally ahead of its time in the way its post-rock guitar was set to a driving house beat. Surely Therapy? were among the first to mix these influences – with that track alone they preceded the dance/punk/metal crossover popularised by latter-day Prodigy and Pitchshifter by a gnat’s whisker – but enough to earn them some serious kudos in the mixed 90s scene.
A year or so later, the Troublegum album sent things temporarily stratospheric for the band. My first Therapy? live experience was during this bright phase; seeing them at Donington Monsters of Rock in 1994 and Shepherds Bush the same year (I do believe USA alt. rock band Dig were supporting).
But, I’ll confess. I haven’t always been faithful. After the off-kilter, gothic crooning on their Infernal Love album, my interest waned. I went off to devour as much heavy music as my teenage brain could accommodate and I left Therapy? on the shelf for quite a while.
I didn’t come back to the band until 2009’s incredible, Crooked Timber record. A superb offering that I would recommend in a heartbeat. So taken was I with this album that I re-familiarised myself with the band and went on a bit of a retrospective, curious to see where they had been for all these years.
Shamefully, I discovered that the band hadn’t been anywhere! It was me who had been absent while Therapy? continued on a consistent cycle of writing, recording and touring some quality material.
More fool me.
I’ve remained an active fan ever since. I’ve seen them perform many times, so I’m approaching tonight’s gig feeling confident that the boys will put in another blinding performance.
As my pal and I cross the threshold, support band King Creature (who are label-mates with the headliners) are in the latter part of their set. Taking some influence from Alice In Chains, particularly on new single, World Of Sin – which sounds like it has respectfully borrowed from the Jerry Cantrell songbook – they deliver a solid set of metal-infused rock an roll which has obviously benefited from being road tested at many gigs and festivals.
They are given a good response, the guitar work is impressive and crescendos to a dramatic thrash-out that seems to satisfy the growing crowd, who delay refilling their pint glasses until after the set’s climactic conclusion.
Shortly afterwards, drinks are bought, and there is time for a quick browse around the merch stand before heading back into the main venue…
Therapy? are given a rousing cheer as they take the Concorde’s modest stage. Still riding the momentum of a positive reception to their newest record, they open with a one/two smash of Wreck It Like Beckett into Expelled. Both solid offerings from 2018’s Cleave album.
Frustratingly, at this early stage in the set there is a slight problem with the sound. The muddy guitar and dry vocals diminish the impact of the first two songs – but this is an issue with the venue’s sound-system rather than the band, who are obviously full of enthusiasm and primed to put on a great show.
During a brief break in proceedings, frontman, Andy Cairns promises the crowd two things.
Firstly, that they will play for “a fucking long time.”
Secondly, that they will absolutely be performing songs from across their entire career.
Live, Therapy? have never been a band to rely solely on greatest hits. They have always put newer songs into the set and mixed things up. This has the the dual benefit of giving people the chance to hear current favourites and lesser known material live, but also ensures an even more rapturous reception when a popular classic is dropped in. This is evidenced when the familiar “snap” on the snare drum signals the lurching riff of Die Laughing and the crowd responds with a roar. All concerns about the (slightly improving) sound are forgotten in favour of the crowd yelling “I can’t remember my own name” at the top of its collective lungs.
From here the band really don’t let up. Between-song banter is rapid with an emphasis on leaving as much time as possible free for more music. It’s mostly light-hearted stuff; even the spite directed at Donald Trump before Kakistocracy is tossed out with a degree of joviality.
Turn and Callow are paired together tonight. Despite each song being separated by nearly twenty five years, both are met with enthusiasm and matched with an equally impressive sing-a-long from the crowd. Bass player Michael McKeegan appears to be in his element. Always a generous performer, he bounces, swings and spins, maintaining a smile throughout.
Indeed, spirits are high. Perhaps this is partly due to it being drummer Neil Cooper’s birthday. To a huge cheer, the band announce that they are staying in town tonight so they can go out celebrating after the gig. They then initiate a chant of, “Neil, Neil, drum like a motherfucker!” Which results in Cooper doing exactly that, and during an extended rendition of Potato Junkie he seems to revel in the moment where they segue the song into Slayer’s Raining Blood.
The Californian thrash classic isn’t the only cover played this evening. Husker Du’s Diane is perhaps the obvious expectation. Contrary to the ominous version immortalised on their Infernal Love album, the band now play it faithful to the original, “as Bob Mould intended”. Also, later on in the set, the anthemic Nowhere is preceded by a quick blast of Judas Priest’s Breaking The Law.
These casual nods to classic bands are cherries on an already tasty cake. We are being spoilt tonight. Opal Mantra, Trigger Inside, Teethgrinder, an absolutely savage performance of Knives and of course, Screamager are all given an airing. From the new album, Save Me From The Ordinary, I Stand Alone and Crutch all hold their own against the more established songs. In fact, the band are confident enough with their new material to close the set with the raucous bounce of Success? Success Is Survival, and it does not disappoint.
Given that the soundman eventually resolved the mix issues, my only (personal) gripe this evening is the band chose not to play anything from my beloved Crooked Timber album. In fact, material from the bands latter career was focused almost exclusively on Cleave with a brief stop off to play Insecurity from Disquiet. However, on the strength of what they did play and their undeniably exuberant performance, I can live with that.
Sweaty and smiling, I caught the eye of a member of security on my way out. “That was really good,” he said, letting on that he was usually more into ska. I couldn’t disagree with him.
Tonight was a triumph.