Therapy? // The Outcasts // So Much For The 30-Year Plan – Live Review // The Limelight I // Belfast
Tonight see’s Therapy? finally, get to play Belfast on their So Much For The 30-Year Plan tour, sorry make that 32-year plan by the time Covid reschedules are taken into account. I start the night by watching people file into the venue sporting Therapy? shirts from over the years. There are Pleasure Death and Baby Teeth album art shirts, an Infernal Love tour shirt from 95 and gemils, gemils everywhere!!
The room starts to fill up and The Outcasts kickstart the night with a Stooges cover. They proceed to tear through a set of bombastic punk rock and it’s a testament to the band that has far outlasted any 30 or 32-year plan that they clearly still have a fan base that is just rabid for them now as they ever were. The band are tight and in form. Having The Outcasts support is a nice nod to the heritage of music in Belfast just as Therapy? now celebrate what is essentially their musical legacy.
It’s this legacy that everyone is very clearly here to celebrate, the band walk on stage to what can only be described as a hero’s welcome and that continues throughout the night. The cry of ‘here I am motherfucker!’ rings out as we’re hit with a one-two punch of classic Therapy? tracks in the form of ‘Nausea’ and ‘Stories’, both sounding urgent and vicious. ‘Kakistocracy’ is a newer track but is met with equal fervour from the crowd as they throw the devil horns in the air. Andy Cairns dedicates ‘Die Laughing’ to the sadly departed Taylor Hawkins. ‘Troublegum’ was one of the first records I bought way back when and it sounds as good today as it did when it came tearing out of my speakers. They dig back into the catalogue again with fan favourites Opal Mantra’ and ‘Prison Breaker’, the bass sound on the latter can only be described as gnarly. ‘Turn’ is next and serves as a reminder of just how good Therapy? is at writing heavy songs that explore the darker side of the human psyche, but carry more hooks than a slaughterhouse. Without skipping a beat the band tear into ‘Callow’ off 2018’s Cleave, the new material offers up a decidedly different sound for the band but sits well amongst the back catalogue, quintessentially maintaining the band’s sound but stretching their legs into further melodic territory. The instantly recognisable drum fill starts ‘Trigger Inside’ and Neil Cooper annihilates his kit for the rest of the track, his head never stops banging along. Next up was easily the highlight of the night for me, I’ve seen Therapy? a bunch of times over the years, and seen them play ‘Church of Noise’ at every show but tonight it just hit different. It seems to electrify the room, people push forward to make their way to the pit, which I’m sure they regretted in the morning, pint glasses are sent flying and hair whips back and forth. After this were treated to a brand new unreleased track ‘Joy’ and the promise of a new album. It already sounds like classic Therapy? a crunchy riff, taught with tension and a massive chorus. It’s well received by the crowd and if the album lives up to this it’ll be another welcome entry to their extensive back catalogue. The band are clearly enjoying themselves and relishing the home town adulation they’re receiving, Michael McKeegan for someone who’s nickname is ‘The Evil Priest’ sure seems to smile a lot. Cairns is a great frontman and has the crowd in the palm of his band all night, jibes at Larne and making Neil Cooper drink Buckfast for his birthday are all eaten up by the crowd. Neil Cooper who has now been the bands longest serving drummer puts his own stamp on the earlier tracks like ‘Disgracelands’, ‘Loose’ and Husker Du staple ‘Diane’. These were all re-recorded as part of the Greatest Hits 2020 Versions and all sound vicious tonight, the man is a total power house behind the kit. ‘Teethgrinder’ is a prime example of that, and a song I guarantee that’s made every drummer from Northern Ireland toy with having two snares at some point (I’m guilty of this).
The band depart the stage but they know just as well as we do that it’s not over. We’re given a substantial 7 song encore kicking off with the absolutely face melting ‘Knives’, its heavy, its tight, its vicious and it has everyone singing along. We all know what James Joyce is doing to your sister, and we all love to sing it back, I wonder how the sister feels about it? ‘Potato Junkie’ rips out across the limelight followed swiftly by ‘Meat Abstract’ and its Blade Runner sample. The buzzsaw disco of the drums and Cairns guitar sounds like if David Cronenberg was a DJ. Two more covers take us into the home stretch for the night, Joy Divisions ‘Isolation’ from Troublegum, which already was an emotionally heavy song given Ian Curtis’s death but following the last few years it takes on even more weight, it feels cathartic. Conversely, ‘Breaking the Law’ by Judas Priest for ‘The Evil Priest’ because ‘he likes heavy metal’, holds none of that but still conjures up the security guard playing a cardboard backwards flying v in his cabin. If the night started with a one-two punch were now hit with two knockout blows, ‘Nowhere’ sends bodies flying everywhere, neck snapping stabs and the tempo change in the middle lend itself to prime mosh pit material. There’s only really one way to properly finish the night as Neil Cooper hammers the tom intro to ‘Screamager’ you can feel the joy in the room. Almost every teenage band I was in covered this song and I’m sure it was the same for anyone else in the room who played in a band. It’s bouncy, it’s full of energy and the crowd give it back in spades.
With a back catalogue as wide ranging as they have you’ll never get to hear everything you want to hear, there’s nothing of Suicide Pact, Shameless or High Anxiety. Those are my Therapy? albums, the ones that came out when I was properly getting into music and the ones that hit me. Looking around the room and the shirts and the smiles on faces it seems everyone has those albums for the band. Maybe it’s because they’re from ‘our wee country’ and they got out and ‘made it’ but I think at the core it’s because they’re a great band, with still to this day a very unique sound and approach, that we love them. I’m not mad they didn’t play anything from those records, simply because when they come back for the So Much For The 35 Year Plan tour I’m sure they can mine those and the other records for material. I’ll have to dig out my High Anxiety tour shirt for it.