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Therapy? - The Cluny, Newcastle 24.09.2019

Therapy? have a lot of strong ties to the North East now. Over the past four years four of their albums have been recorded at Blast Studios in Newcastle and tonight’s show, their last club gig of the year, is at the 300 capacity Cluny. Fair to say it sold out and we’re all expecting it to be a little bit toasty in here (we won’t be disappointed).

Opening the proceedings are Newcastle’s Ashes Of Iron. The Geordie five piece do a great line in Melodic Stoner Rock with vocalist Alan Greener handling the singing with ease. The dual guitars weave around each other and drummer Chris Salmon is hypnotising to watch, pummelling his kit. Their six song set is short but enough for you to want to hear more from them. The good news for us is they’re about to head into the studio to lay down a new album.

Next year will see Therapy? reach the grand old age of thirty. This is a major achievement as a lot of their contemporaries from the early nineties have had either extended hiatus breaks, imploded or just simply disappeared. Not these guys though.

Coming onstage after some early Killing Joke songs (which sounds great over the venue’s speakers) to dialogue lifted from TV series “Father Ted” the band are all grins in their none more black stage gear. There’s a wicked glint in their eyes as they prepare to take us on a ninety minute musical journey.

After a quick peak at the set list the band aren’t preparing to take any prisoners with a mix of tracks from last year’s “Cleave” and plenty of favourites from their back catalogue. It shows the depth of their material when they can open with a blistering ‘Die Laughing’ from the classic “Troublegum” album like it’s nothing, knowing they’ve got plenty of other classics to rely on.

For myself, Therapy? sound great on record but seeing them live is where it's at. You still get the songs but you also get the added bonus of seeing a band at the peak of their abilities. Their energy and enthusiasm is infectious with the band constantly interacting with the audience, encouraging them to bounce and sing as loud as possible.

Seeing the band upfront and close in such a small venue is an amazing revelation. The band aren’t showy or over theatrical, everything is stripped bare. Why clutter things up when you are this tight as a band? Andy Cairns plays riffs that could slice the skin off your face while singing about his inner darkness. Michael McKeagan, the evil priest himself, bounces around the stage, standing on the lip of the stage while playing his bass, singing and cajoling the crowd along with the songs (confession time: every time I see McKeagan play live I really want to start playing bass in a band). Then there’s Neil Cooper, a man who’s drum skills often make other gigging drummers look like amateurs. When watching them live you start to realise how complex and fast those rhythms are. And then there’s Hot Steve, the band’s guitar tech and extra live guitarist/backing vocalist, a man who tonight lives up to his nickname by looking red in the face thanks to the temperature while helping thicken up some of the songs.

Cairns is also an articulate speaker. Before the politically provocative ‘Kakistocracy’ the frontman launches into an impassioned speech. Drawing deeply from his and Michael’s experience of living in Ireland towards the end of the country’s turbulent period, Andy warns us that we as a species are being forcibly divided by the likes of Trump and Johnson, how the elite are using this as always for their gain. We need to look after ourselves and each other he reminds us before the band tear into the song with some real ferocity.

Both “Troublegum” and “Infernal Love” are well represented in the set. There are plenty of opportunities to bounce around Punk Pop this side of the Ramones with hooks aplenty that will stick in your ears (much like the ringing) for days afterwards. ‘Diane’ has evolved from a dark, string laden murder ballad into a vicious, disturbing kick to the head, losing none of its threat and menace.

‘Church Of Noise’ kicks off what should be a five song encore. Someone in the crowd is shouting for ‘Knives’ the opening track from “Infernal Love” so Andy audibly tells the rest of the band to slip it in between ‘Meat Abstract’ and ‘Screamager’, probably their best known song which, surprisingly, isn’t closing tonight’s gig. That honour goes to ‘Success?’ from their last album. It takes people a bit unawares but it’s about the song’s message and Andy’s request for us all to look after ourselves and each other that matters to the band and then, like Boris Johnson’s hopes of being remembered as a successful Prime Minister, they’re gone.

Therapy? are a band that carry a message but wrap it around a tune and melody. They’re old school in a way that they care about what’s going on in the world around them and they feel that they need to make their voice heard, to make sure that we try not to put ourselves back in a place where we are divided through choices made by ineffectual politicians and greedy corporate CEOs. Andy sings the words “happy people have no stories” as a chorus but tonight shows that there’s a lot of happy people in the room with a lot of happy memories of the show. I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ll do and how we can share in their thirtieth anniversary in 2020.

Review - Scott Hamilton

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