Live Review : Therapy? + King Creature @ Gorilla, Manchester on November 16th 2018

After my Liverpudlian midweek logistical nightmare of shooting 2 gigs in the same venue at the same time, it becomes increasingly evident that tonight may also be one of those night. As I reach the door of Gorilla in Manchester for Northern Irish band Therapy?, my name is nowhere to be found on the list of approved photographers. After some lengthy conversation outside on the pavement (backed up by the hard evidence of email conversations) my name miraculously reappears on the guest list and I’m in. 

Founded almost 3 decades ago, Therapy? found success in the mid-nineties on the back of the surge in popularity for Grunge. To be honest at the time I was left cold by all this alternative malarkey as I literally weeks earlier had accidentally discovered Prog-Rock in the improbable surrounds of Piccadilly Circus’ Tower Records when a copy of Dream Theater’s  sublime ‘Awake’ had fallen in to my hands, though that is another story for another time. Even without my patronage, Therapy? had a couple of years of mega success (getting as far as being special guest for Metallica at Donington in ’95) before the laws of diminishing returns set in and they went through the inevitable line-up change that plague most bands. However they have managed to  constantly releases new albums over the years with their latest ‘CLEAVE’ being, impressively, their 15th studio effort.

As I plant myself in front of the stage, Depeche Mode are blasting on the house PA before the soundman comes to his senses and decide that a couple of AC/DC Bon Scott era would be more appropriate. With the inescapable ‘Highway to Hell’, ‘Walk All Over You’, ‘Riff Raff’ to name a few, I reminisce about my recent weekend in Stockholm where Belford played in The Anchor twice in two nights. Or what I remember of it, yes it was one of those weekend.

There is just the one support act this evening, Cornish rock n’ rollers King Creature who are doing the whole UK tour. They throw themselves with gusto into an high octane live performance but Gorilla’s lack of front lights during the first 3 songs infuriates me as what shots I get look like the band are playing hide and seek in the shadows. Stage space is also unbearably tight (I can hand on heart say that I have never been so near a drumkit in action in my entire life) but the band make good use of what is available. They may be playing in what feels like the virtual darkness but they still give this a good go as within a couple of songs guitarists Matt K Vincent and Dave Evans have managed to emulate Zakk Wylde’s patented guitar squeals and have orchestrated a communal sing along with ‘Lowlife’. The “pièce de résistance” of their far too short 6 songs set is ‘Fortune Teller’ a mid-tempo tune with a catchy chorus and guitar work that brings to mind a certain Stoke born guitarist. The boys are nothing but confident in their material and as they end on the double bass drums number ‘Power’ I find myself wishing there was more, the ultimate accolade for a support act.

Therapy? follow and as the first notes of ‘Wreck It Like Beckett’ reverberating of the walls of this cavern like sold out venue, the trio gets a rapturous reception from an audience, judging by their enthusiasm, already converted to the Therapy? cause. The band cycles through their set with sparse interruptions, alternating songs from their latest album ‘CLEAVE’ with gems from the mega-selling ‘Troublegum’, presumably to remind the audience why they are here tonight. The 1995 string laden single ‘Diane’ is served up with added guitar and makes the Hüsker Dü original seem rather bland in comparison. It also gets the intended response from the crowd as, egged on by vocalist Andy Cairns, they scream the lyrics in unison and if there was a world record for the number of times someone can repeat the girl’s it would have been broken tonight . Surprisingly we get ‘Screamager’ followed by ‘Teethgrinder’ (by far and away Therapy? two most well-known tracks) within the main portion the set and I begin to wonder how the rest of the evening will pan out, as it seems a very brave (or foolhardy) move not to keep the best till last, unless of course they know something I don’t. Inevitably, as you would expect with two songs that literally drip nineties nostalgia, the band is surrounded with fans who know every word. 

Whilst they may have dispensed with their big guns this doesn’t seem to deter the faithful throng as old folk song ‘Potato Junkie’ is greeted with equal glee and it requires little effort from Andy to convince our collective inner puerile child to assist him with singing the memorable line “James Joyce is fucking my sister” for a good 5 minutes.

A lengthy encore continues in much the same vein with a disproportionate amount of time being spent on ‘Troublegum’. As ‘Nowhere’ and ‘Knives’ are thrown out the energy of the crowd rises once more and it seems the frenzied dancing can no longer be confined to the pit as a confused looking girl ends up centre stage not sure of what she is supposed to do next. Naturally helpful bouncers show her back to her rightful place.

Andy’s vocals are far from being the sharpest tonight but, like Massive Wagons earlier in the week, when you have the songs, the fans and a packed room eating out of your hand, very little can go wrong. Whilst we do get 8 songs from the recent ‘CLEAVE’, really tonight is about the reverence that their fan-base give to ‘Troublegum'. Every one of its eight tracks aired tonight is treated as an old friend by the fevered crowd and yes it may be simple nostalgia but when the crowd are having this much fun does that really matter?

Words and Photography by Johann Wierzbicki

Setlists : Therapy? , King Creature