||THERAPY? AND A VIRGINMARY BLESS THE UNION CHAPEL WITH HEAVENLY SET
Therapy?/VirginMarys: Union Chapel, Islington, London
1st December 2016
Words: Philip Welford, Pictures: Eric Duvet
On a cold winter's night the Union Chapel presented a unique setting to catch both bands performing a rare acoustic set as part of a highly acclaimed Europoean tour. Therapy? frontman Andy Cairns stated: "This will be a challenging performance giving the fans a chance to hear the melodies, guitars and strings in a unique and lovely setting," and by God it was.
This breath-taking 18th century Gothic church rang out with songs taken from all fifteen albums spanning Therapy?'s illustrious and varied career. After downing our own version of holy water (beer and wine), we settle into the pews and a night of acoustic counselling awaits. If rock'n'roll is our religion, these are our icons.
Providing a perfect support is a solo VirginMary, as Ally Dickaty prowls confidently onto stage and welcomes us to his church. As the blue spotlights pick him out, co-conspirator Danny Dolan watches from the side of the stage. With slightly restrained vocals and an ethereal delicate guitar he launches into a captivating eight song set.
'For You My Love' sounds even more dark and soul searching as 'Just A Ride' sees Ally's trademark bulging veins bring power into this intimate campfire feeling gig. "This is the most beautiful place I've ever played," remarks the lone guitarist before launching into more amazingly powerful and angst ridden punk rock ballads, the shadowy smoke, warm yet somehow cold at the same time add to the atmosphere as the single 'Motherless Land' is given the angel treatment with pitch and tempo shifts of near biblical proportion and the set concludes on a rather romantic note as Ally wishes us a Merry Christmas and leaves us to float into the interlude for more holy water.
Stripped down and ready to rock us now are Therapy?, complete with a clever mix of chat and tunes. Andy Cairns' is our preacher and us the appreciative brethren. Acoustic bass and guitar, stripped down drum kit and an angelic cellist, the band are never better.
This is the last show of 2016 for the band and is being recorded so Andy encourages the congregation to "make as much noise as you want!" and 'Trigger Inside' lures us, the choir, into raucous backing vocals and the foot stomping and hand clapping continues into 'Our Love Must Die', a dark, fast and furious Irish jig reverberating around these hallowed walls.
We're transported back to 1995 as Andy jokes about having that discussion with your kids about the evils of doing drugs, not that we're at all hypocritical... 'Tides' gives some reflection time as the arm waving, floral dancing continues around the Chapel and up on the balcony. Perhaps a few too many ceremonial wines have been imbibed.
The quips continue and not even Donald Trump is exempt from the Irish man's cunning wit. 'Evil Elvis' flows into more and more manna from the Gods as we start to feel like we're sat by the fire in some weird yet comfortable theme pub being led by the hand on a journey of 90s jangle rock, hardcore, suppressed anxiety and down and out rock brought up to date with an older perhaps wiser but no less edgy attitude.
Two minutes of hand clapping without shame is our Christmas present to the Preacherto accompany 'If It Kills Me'. It doesn't, thankfully.
The guys are joined on stage by Jenny Nendick playing cello for what becomes an inspiring version of 'Gone' and by now the band and audience have merged into one entity, Therapy? by osmosis!
Cairns now thanks the Virginmarys and everyone for coming out, especially drummer Neil Cooper who has "got fucked up every night" on a strange Tia Maria concoction known only as Turbo Bastards. It's just the two small Baileys for our frontman tonight as he celebrates this final night.
Stevie joins the stage next and the set powers back and forth the ages transporting me back to my Mohawk days with 'Knives'. I wonder how God feels about mosh pits?
The crowd are operating on heightened senses for the rest of the set and the trio of 'Screamager', 'Nowhere' and the irrepressible 'Die Laughing' bring this unique aural sensation to a close. Seriously buzzing we make our way into the night slightly in awe and holding onto the promise of a live release with expectant, bated breath.
An early Christmas blessing indeed.