Ulster rockers Therapy? lift the mood in Belgium

Michael McKeegan (left) and Andy Cairns cranked out the riffs for a sold-out Belgian audience  on Saturday night
Michael McKeegan (left) and Andy Cairns cranked out the riffs for a sold-out Belgian audience on Saturday night

Robin Greer reports from Leuven in Belgium as Therapy? use grinding riffs and a healthy dose of twisted ironic humour to help get the party started again after days of security lockdown and terror fears

During the days following the massacre in Paris, Brussels was in lockdown as the terrorists were known to be at large and plotting further mayhem.

As armed police and soldiers swarmed the streets, the whole of Belgium sunk into a national paranoid psychosis, and instead of enjoying the run up to the holiday season, the whole country fell eerily quiet.

Belgium needed therapy, and luckily that is just what it got.

Northern Ireland rockers Therapy?, having triumphed at a major outdoor festival in the Belgian capital during the summer, were back in the European lowlands, storming through a sold-out tour of the smaller cities.

Such was the demand for tickets that in some towns Therapy? tribute acts had to be drafted in to play nearby clubs for fans who could not get in to see the real thing.

The News Letter joined a capacity crowd on Saturday night at Het Depot, in Leuven, Belgium, the closing date of the European leg of their current tour before a run of Irish and UK dates.

Having been fused together in the midst of Northern Ireland’s troubles, Therapy? had a natural empathy with a traumatised audience, a point made succinctly and powerfully by singer and guitarist Andy Cairns.

Rather than sinking into self-regarding platitudes or hollow mawkishness, the band let rip with a power blast of high-energy defiance, the same spirit that originally propelled them out of the post-industrial and violence-blighted landscape of 1980s east Antrim and into the charts and three decades of critical acclaim.

With Andy Cairns sawing out the chunky riffs, bassist Michael McKeegan throwing his trademark tongue-in-cheek god poses and Neil Cooper setting about the drum kit like a Duracell bunny with high voltage overload, they delivered a set that dipped into their recent album, Disquiet as well as a goodly selection of hits and live favourites including Turn, Trigger Inside, Teethgrinder, Screamager, Knives, and a particularly haunting rendition of Diane, all speckled with occasional cheeky lifts from The Undertones and The Stooges.

This was Therapy? in full-on party mode, which frankly is a bit of an ask for a band whose stock in trade is dark themes and nerve-tweaking intensity, albeit riddled with the sort of twisted ironic humour that could only come out of Northern Ireland. But they pulled it off in style and put their sweaty all into lifting the mood.

The 850-strong crowded loved them for it. The normally reserved Belgians rarely get quite so animated. At one point a young lady made an amorous lunge onstage and towards Andy, reducing Michael to fits of giggles, the occasional balloon bobbed incongruously around the audience and the night ended with an outbreak of happy crowd surfing.

Therapy? does not get better than this.

Therapy? play The Limelight, Belfast, on Saturday December 12.