“I have to apologise”, says Andy Cairns from the stage of Bologna's Estragon, to the Therapy? faithful, on the first night of the European tour in support of Never Apologise, Never Explain, “My Italian is fuckin’ bad, and, being an Irish man, my English is fuckin’ appaling too!”. The crowd lap it up, though not necessarily sure of what any of it means. Meaning doesn't matter. The songs are loud, tight, and tuneful.
Therapy? are back and booming with far more life and energy than should be expected from a band who have just released their eigth full length studio album (not counting two mini-albums and a greatest hits package), and who in recent years have had the departure of both a drummer and guitar player. While drummer Graham Hopkins’ departure was perhaps a merciful release, judging from some fairly acrid remarks on both sides, the seemingly sudden departure of guitarist/celloist Martin McCarrick may have worried fans slightly more. Over nine years McCarrick, certainly from the outside, appeared to be an integral part of the band. So, there have been question marks aplenty as to what the new album and tour would be like. It's too early to say with the album, though I have been humming live like a motherfucker, die like a motherfucker in almost every queue I've found myself in the last week, of which, living in Italy, there have been many.
As far as this gig went, Therapy? were as brilliant as the last two times I saw them: a shamefully long time ago in Dalymount Park, Dublin supporting the Red Hot Chilli Peppers (’94?), at the most ironically named festival in the world Sunstroke, and years before in a small pokey Dublin club, McGonagles, that has long since gone. In McGonagles they were the world’s loudest, fastest, funniest punk-thrash band, while supporting the Chilli Peppers they were stadium giants doing the big rock thing. Both sides to Therapy? have their merits, and, thankfully, the band have the confidence to accept them both.
The gig starts with Rise Up from the new album, and instantly demonstrates that, while they may be back to a three piece, they still fill a huge sound. It's a strong tune, and as representative as anything on the new album. There’s a passion that's evident as they bound around on the stage, with Cairns growling “Rise up, make yourself well”, with his unmistakeable voice. It's followed straight away by the aforementioned Live like a motherfucker, die like a motherfucker, which cheers me no end, still reeling from having gone to bed the previous Tuesday night thinking that, as bad as he may be, John Kerry had won the American Presidential Election, and having woken up to Gracious George, and four more years. Whether their interpretation of the song coincided with mine is no matter, the crowd were loving it, moshing for all they’re worth.
They're a band full of contradictions, not least of which is their transformation from ferocious looking psychos while performing the songs, to the polite well brought up lads that give conscientious “Thank you Bologna, thank you so much”s after each couple of tracks.
Highlights, for me, were This ship is sinking, from the new album, along with Nowhere and Isolation, where it struck me that Michael McKeegan and Neil Cooper may just be the heaviest and finest rhythm section in the world. At full volume they really are something to behold, though whether McKeegan makes it through the tour without injuring himself or someone in the front row, swinging that bass, is a moot point.
It wasn't all roses, and a number of technical problems cropped up later in the gig, particularly with McKeegan's bass setup, which robbed the show of some momentum, but that's the luck of the draw with the first night of a tour I suppose. It gave Cairns a chance to try out a White Stripes style version of Skywards off the Babyteeth mini-album, to mixed effect.
Whether you're a fanatic, a fair weather fan like myself, or just interested in catching a full on, loud, exciting rock show (without big hair, or fake hip-hop), then the current Therapy? Tour is the one for you (for extra value catch the shows with the excellent Amplifier in support).