Therapy?, Axis of & Paradox @ Cyprus Avenue
“…And tonight, they are his crowd. They are Therapy?’s crowd. And no-one has ever been better at making a crowd lose it. 21 years, and we’re still losing it, and sent pinballing around like teenagers at the drop of a hat to this band. Fan-fucking-tastic…”
It’s been a very good thing indeed, that those boys in black have stopped by Leeside more often in recent years. On a career artistic high at the moment, after over 20 years and a nearly-flawless run of albums culminating in two modern masterworks in Crooked Timber and A Brief Crack of Light, spawning singles and live favourites at every turn, the Larne/Ballyclare/Derby trio played two nights for the Jazz festival in 2010, and easily outpaced a grand majority of the other bands at last year’s Indiependence fest with a Troublegum-heavy set. Cork loves Therapy?, and with good reason. But even better, it seems as though Therapy? genuinely love coming here, not least for the rabid reception they customarily receive. Always seeming to give that little bit more, the band promised to make it count this time around also, after cancelling their March round of Irish dates owing to drummer Neil Cooper’s broken hand.
First up, though, are Cork grungers Paradox. It seems strange to use that word, grunge, in connection with a Therapy? gig: it seems so long ago since the comparisons were drawn between the band and a genre they weren’t too keen on being shoehorned into for marketability, that it almost seems nonsensical. Aside from that brief thought, it makes perfect sense that the brothers Mac are here, a band predicated on brotherhood that, while perhaps a tad loyal to the alt-rock oeuvre at times, cuts a hell of a figure onstage, and touches a lot of bases sonically, running the gamut from Mr. Bureaucracy‘s direct and poppy post-grunge to extended, downtuned Tool-esque passages. The early crowd are more than impressed. Axis Of have been on the rise and rise for quite some time now, off the back of a string of strong singles. It’s a surprise then, that their set tonight is entirely new material from their upcoming album, mooted for November. Even more of a surprise is the material itself, stompy, joyous exhortations galore buried among a hail of riffs. Mendelssohnstrasse is perhaps The Big One, replete with festival-ready, call-and-response, woah-oh singalongs. A grand showing from a great band with a statement to make.
Therapy? hit the stage and immediately show us all why they’ve survived so long to begin with: they’re a fucking great band, end of. Straight into Teethgrinder, the band are posessed of an energy and presence that outfits half their age would kill for. Stuff from A Brief Crack of Light features heavily, which is bloody awesome, because quite frankly, it’s all head and shoulders above the expectations of the casual audience in attendance. Ghost Trio‘s droning, ethereal reflection on the Arab Spring is met with eager pogoing and even a vinyl copy of the new long-player making its way to the stage, undeterred even by a drum monitor falling on Cooper’s head, while Why Turbulence? cracks a fuzzy, jazzy grin across the faces of the audience. The aforementioned casual fans are of course kept happy: it doesn’t take long for Unbeliever to rear its head from 1994′s Troublegum. Die Laughing and Isolation (the former dedicated to Bob Marley, the latter preceded by a rendition of another Joy Division song, She’s Lost Control) make early appearances, but are eclipsed by the pop-metal one-two of Rust/If It Kills Me, which sends moshers flying. In a great bit of banter, lead man Andy Cairns breaks into a fit of nostalgia, namechecking venues like Nancy’s and the Wolfhound, before a gravestone-heavy rendition of Exiles sends people apeshit. Awesome.
Living in the Shadow of a Terrible Thing, the band’s latest single, was premiered here in Cork, so it seems apropos to air its final, romping and stomping form here, prefaced by a chilling rendition of Get Your Dead Hand Off My Shoulder, a deep and dubby rebuttal to the Irish dependence on history. Plague Bell prompts Cairns to summon the moshpit into a gigantic waltz for the song’s tongue-in-cheek, 3/3 coda. Needless to say, bodies go flying hand-in-hand as sweaty strangers attempt to keep their balance. Only at a Therapy? gig. Another album double-whammy comes from Stories and Husker Du‘s Diane, with the latter again preceded by another artist-related mini-cover, this time an excellent Pink Turns to Blue that’s sadly lost on the majority of the crowd. Thankfully, Diane is realised with all its murderous glee intact. Of course, rather than taking an encore and engaging in egotistically waiting on a reaction (Cairns’ words, not ours), the band urge the crowd to turn around and boo the bar staff for a minute or two before sinking into the highlight of the night, a fucking blazing rendition of The Buzzing that sees the band and crowd both coming unglued, bassist Michael McKeegan hanging from overhead monitors and sliding his bass on their edges, while Cairns goes so hard a filling comes loose. A glorious, panicked cacophony designed to erupt crowds. Meat Abstract of course inspires mayhem, and anyone who hasn’t yelled along to Potato Junkie‘s demented rallying cry of “James Joyce is fucking my sister!” at some point has missed out. Badly. The night belongs to Troublegum, however and the triple-threat of Nowhere, Knives and Screamager is enough to finally enough to convince the crowd to lose the run of themselves, security running in and stage-divers doing their thing. Time apparently reverses for these tunes, with Cairns’ bug-eyed stare of old returning during Knives as he surveys his crowd.
And tonight, they are his crowd. They are Therapy?‘s crowd. And no-one has ever been better at making a crowd lose it. 21 years, and we’re still losing it, and sent pinballing around like teenagers at the drop of a hat to this band. Fan-fucking-tastic.