Words: Brendan O’Mahony
Pictures: Olga Kuzmenko
Saturday night, in one of the best cities in Ireland, with two of the best bands this island has produced sounds like a no brainer to me. Truth be told this is my thirty-fifth time seeing Therapy? and also the third night in a row following this tour with the second night in Limerick having surpassed the first in Galway so I am expecting the same here.
The headliners are one of the stalwarts of the Irish music scene and are here to promote their brand-new 15th studio album ‘Cleave’. Along for the ride on the 5-night tour run are The Wood Burning Savages from Derry in Northern Ireland. Upon arrival at the newly refurbished Cyprus Avenue, with an increased capacity to boot, it is confirmed as a sold-out show, somehow making the pints taste all the better. The talk turns to memories of the first T? shows witnessed and hearty discussions on whether the more recent ‘Troublegum’ or ‘Infernal Love’ anniversary shows were better before the arrival of tonight’s openers.
The Wood Burning Savages also have an album to promote, their debut released on the label Flak Jacket, which is called ‘Stability’ and it doesn’t take long to see why they were handpicked for this tour. An album full of anger, watching as their home city continues to decline while the political situation in the North of Ireland remains in stagnation. Frontman Paul Connolly has described it as ‘’A collection of songs about a working class furious at years of empty promises from billionaire Tory MPs who have no insight into everyday life. It’s an album about how these empty promises lead to empty factories and fill job centres with disillusioned people stuck in a cycle of patronising and humiliating Steps To Work schemes.’’ Songs such as ‘Stability’, ‘We Love You’ and ‘I Don’t Know Why I Do It To Myself’ are incredible live so if you like your politically conscious punk then you need their album in your collection and their faces in front of yours at the next available opportunity.
As the large Gemil emblazoned backdrop appears and the sheet covering the marvellous Mapex kit is removed the anticipation is building amongst the diverse crowd, a crowd so diverse due in part to Therapy? having a bit of something for everybody in their music, from punks to metal heads to jazz enthusiasts (if you don’t believe me check out the albums ‘A Brief Crack of Light’ and Crooked Timber’). With the beer yoga just about complete, nobody wants to pull a hamstring in the pit, Andy Cairns, “The Evil Priest” Michael McKeegan and Neil Cooper arrive to a rapturous reception. The following two hours blend elements from a wide section of their career with new tracks ‘Wreck It Like Beckett’, ‘Callow’ and ‘Expelled’ slotting in beside old favourites ‘Fantasy Bag’ and ‘Skyward’. Covers are also peppered throughout the set with the best of the bunch being a joyous cover of the Buzzcocks ‘Ever Fallen In Love’, played in memory of Pete Shelley, while we are also treated to not one but two drum solos from the absolute machine that is Neil Cooper.
The whole reason for this tour is their new album ‘Cleave’ on which Therapy? are definitely politically charged. The title has a double meaning, either to split apart or conversely to stick together, and the album has been written at a time when the concept of the political calamity that is Brexit is threatening not only the U.K. but also our island of Ireland and the E.U. as a whole, while the mental health of the citizens is being stretched to breaking point. Tonight’s show brings those in attendance together, a welcome cathartic experience like every live gig should be, full in the knowledge that, even in these dark times, we are not alone. In what feels like no time at all, and wave after wave of pure sonic perfection, the incredible ‘Teethgrinder’, ‘Trigger Inside’ and ‘Screamager’ are keeping the ever-growing pit bouncing, before the closing quartet of ‘Stories’, ‘Nowhere’, ‘Knives’ and ‘Success? Success is Survival’ flatten all in their path. This is a gig that will live long in my memory from a band that I am very grateful to still have in existence, just shy of their 30th anniversary next year. It should be some celebration in 2020.