LIVE: Therapy? – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds 11/10/2017
The newly-extended Brudenell is playing host to three very different gigs tonight, so there’s a mixture of pie eaters and PVC-wearers mingling in the bar as door opening times approach. It’s clear just from people-watching in the corner that the biggest buzz is reserved for the main room’s occupants tonight, as it’s rare to see a band as revered as Therapy? play somewhere the size of this great little social club, but here they are on their Wood & Wire acoustic tour.
A few punters seem caught out by Therapy? essentially supporting themselves tonight, rushing to grab a pint as drummer Neil Cooper leads the band on stage at a relatively early hour for the first of their two sets. No strangers to stripped back renditions of their extensive catalogue (frontman Andy Cairns had previously played a couple of solo acoustic tours three or four years ago), the band fire through the opening salvo of Trigger Inside and Our Love Must Die, with Cairns admitting he’s often asked why he writes such depressing songs before launching into the latter. It’s his sly wink and tongue-in-cheek banter that really makes the show stand apart from Therapy?’s caustic electric performances, and the stories told throughout the night are everything that you’d expect from a band who’ve been together for so long, equal parts ludicrous, honest and yet ultimately heartwarming.
Cairns, Cooper and bassist Michael McKeegan seem really at ease in this environment after a good few months touring this show, and it offers them the opportunity to draw elements out of songs it’s easy to miss in their original form. It also gives the band the chance to dust off some rarer material including the b-side Evil Elvis (easily a hit single that never was) and the legendary Opal Mantra, both of which get plenty of fans singing every word, despite being over two decades old.
Of course what you’ll always get with any Therapy? show is a batch of hook-laden pop-rock numbers, and although the majority of tonight’s set is culled from their mid-90s pomp, there are also a few surprises along the way. Living In The Shadow Of A Terrible Thing becomes a country classic when performed acoustically, as does one of the band’s most furious songs, Accelerator. It’s refreshing to hear these numbers performed so differently, highlighting the flexibility of the band’s songwriting whilst giving them the opportunity to talk about their creations or tales from the road back in the proverbial day. Cairns is a natural storyteller and even if McKeegan and Cooper have heard the tales a hundred times before, they still show honest enjoyment in the frontman’s delivery. I won’t spoil the content of his anecdotes for those yet to see the show, but suffice to say the black bag story is worth the ticket price alone.
As much as tonight is a celebration of the band’s career, and a jovial one at that, there are still some hugely poignant moments. You can hear a pin drop during Gone, a song originally written for a close friend of the band’s who went through some terrible experiences (for the full story, check out the band’s Live At The Union Chapel album), and after dedicating it to the recently departed Hüsker Dü drummer Grant Hart, Diane is more heartbreaking than ever.
As the second set closes with a lounge jazz version of Knives, an audience riff-along rendition of Screamager and a Tom Petty-dedicated Die Laughing, it’s easy to forget that this was an acoustic show. It’s been shouty, sweary, emotional, loud and pure bounce-along fun. Two heavily-lubricated chaps down the front hug triumphantly as the show ends and the band, beaming from ear to ear, take crowd selfies to mark another important moment in their illustrious career. If tonight’s proven anything, it’s that happy people do indeed have stories, and very good ones at that.