REVIEW & PHOTO CREDITS: CLAIRE HILL
With building work on the recent refurbishment finally completed on the Phoenix, tonight’s event is taking place in the main auditorium, and large crowds are already gathering as we arrive slightly ahead of time. I wasn’t sure what to expect from your average Therapy? audience member, being that the band have now been around for 28 years, but it’s clear that a lot of these people have been there from the beginning.
There are some younger people dotted around, and the band’s merch desk is already a hive of activity, with t-shirts being gathered up by the handful. There’s interest in the King Creature merch too, and as I chat I take the opportunity to purchase some of the goods on offer.
As the numbers in the auditorium begin to swell, KING CREATURE take to the stage for their six song set, beginning with ‘Wrath’ and ‘Lowlife’ from their ‘Volume I’ album. The Cornish rockers take command of the crowd with ease and look perfectly at home as they practically tear a hole in the roof with their awesomely loud, grungy brand of rock. Confident frontman Dave Kellaway practically has the appreciative audience hanging on his every word as the band rip through ‘Down in Flames’ from their new album ‘To The Bone’ (out 7th December 2018 on Marshall Records), his resonating bass giving the new fixtures a good old shake as he sings with menace and flawless control in equal measure. Guitarist Matt K. Vincent, hair flying everywhere, shows quick-fingered prowess as he throws out face-melting melodies.
As I look around I see that many of the crowd are already familiar with the material, and some may have made the journey just to see King Creature tonight. The volume of clapping and cheering is fantastic, right to the back of the room; there is even a couple dancing on the balcony. The next song, ‘Fortune Teller’ is dedicated to Bevis in the front row, who started the band’s Facebook fan page and has travelled up from Cornwall tonight. This gets a great crowd reaction, prompting Kellaway to say “You guys seem to be in good voice tonight, let’s see what you got!”, before starting the obligatory “Woah-Yeah” sing backs of ‘Money’. This and set closer ‘Power’ see guitarist Dave Evans striking poses on the monitors as he powers out bracing riffs galore, with Jack Sutton-Basset’s thunderous drumming galloping along until the very last. A very tough act to follow.
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Having already accidentally seen (on social media) a THERAPY? setlist from a couple of nights ago, I’m expecting a long set from the Northern Irish stalwarts. I recently reviewed the new album, ‘Cleave’ and was so impressed I took part in the pledge campaign, so when they open the set with the explosive ‘Wreck-It Like Beckett’ and then ‘Expelled’ from the new album I’m excited and the crowd are too! The trio are dressed all in black and looking as pleased as punch to be performing, each sporting wide grins, frontman Andy Cairns occasionally deviating from this to throw maniacal eyes around the room as he sings. After a couple of songs from older albums, it’s time for ‘Kakistocracy’, which frontman Andy Cairns announces will be shown live on Instagram. He goes on to say that the song is “about what is going on in the world…and Donald Trump…well, fuck Donald Trump!” He then teaches those of us that don’t already know the chorus “It’s ok not be ok, it’s ok not be ok” and says “It IS ok not to be ok - fuck them all!”, and the place positively erupts! Everyone is cheering, clapping and singing along to the refrain. Similarly, before he introduces ‘Callow’, Cairns says “Put your arms around your friends and family, take care of them”. There are fists in the air and happy faces wherever I look in the packed auditorium.
Michael McKeegan, or ‘The Evil Priest’, uses the whole of the stage as he plays his rumbling bass notes, grinning all the time, and Neil Cooper on drums is infinitely watchable as he pounds away, it’s like he’s trying to batter his way through to the fucking stage and having the time of his life! ‘Screamager’ gets a terrific response, the whole place is bouncing and this is swiftly followed by another crowd favourite ‘Teethgrinder’. It’s at this point that I ponder why the holy fuck have I not seen Therapy? before…wow, have I been missing out! Cairns tells us the next song is an old Irish folk song and asks if we’d like to sing the chorus. By now I think it’s fair to say that we’d pretty much do anything the man asked of us, so “James Joyce is fucking my sister” isn’t too much of a stretch! This gets shouted out throughout the ditty, who knows what the bar staff outside think, and frankly who gives a shit! Turns out its drummer Cooper’s birthday, and after encouraging us to shout “Neil, Neil, drum like a motherfucker!”, at him (he indeed did, drum like a motherfucker!), Cairns asks us if we’re “gonna take him out in Exeter and get him fucked up?” with evil delight in his eyes! Cairns is an understated professional who is so underrated as a guitarist. His killer riffs and melodious licks are frenetic and fierce and he’s a damn fine vocalist too. We’re treated to a splatter of ‘Raining Blood’ and some of ‘Breaking the Law’ and a mammoth 7 song encore with ‘Success…Success is Survival’, from ‘Cleave’ to finish the night.
For a band with a 28-year history, comprising a set list must be really difficult, even if that set is 23 songs long! Each and every song seems to delight pockets of the audience, and even if everyone isn’t that familiar with every song it doesn’t seem to matter. What really matters is the atmosphere. The audience were delighted, it was evident in every single happy face, raised fist and cheer. Cairns, McKeegan and Cooper are undeniably watchable and their performance tight and gritty. They played for longer tonight than most bands do in an arena setting, that is mighty impressive.