Review by Ian Savage, photos by Mark Lloyd
On paper and on record, Lonely The Brave are pretty much the perfect openers for tonight’s ’20 Years Of ‘Troublegum” celebration. Hotly-tipped and firmly in the ‘modern and angular’ rock camp, a quick listen to their latest single ‘Trick Of The Light’ would suggest that a crowd of 30-somethings potentially on the lookout for the next band they should be paying attention to would be easy pickings for the Cambridge five-piece.
They singularly fail to pull it off. In the main not because of their material, which is as easy on the ear as modern melodic rock gets, if a little formulaic – think Lost Prophets crossed with Puddle of Mudd and you’re in the right ballpark – but because of their frontman’s almost total lack of charisma. Contrasted with the energy and willingness to engage of the guitarist to his left, the fact that he doesn’t even remove his microphone from its stand until the third song in and mostly sings looking across the stage speaks volumes – what is even more telling is how much more packed the bar area is towards the end of their set than when they started. Hopefully David Jakes was just having an off-night, as Lonely The Brave surely cannot have gained the plaudits and exposure they have if this is his A-game; on the strength of this show he is a singer rather than a frontman, and not a great one at that.
Around half-an-hour later, the bar is as empty as it gets as Therapy? walk onstage – as black-clad and bad-ass as ever, they get the party started with ‘Knives’ and hammer through the birthday album with barely a break to catch their breath. The Wolverhampton crowd responds in kind, with even a crowd-surfer or two during second tune ‘Screamager’; to be honest, the perfectly-paced first half is probably helped massively by the fact it is entirely composed of playing a perfectly-paced album to a roomful of people who grew up on it.
The band have recruited a second guitarist in the wings (Hot Steve of Ginger Wildheart fame, for fellow geeks) to pad out some of the songs, which also helps – the slight rearrangements allow for maximum album authenticity without compromising the band’s preferred power-trio approach too much. The mix isn’t perfect (Steve’s guitar is WAY louder than Andy’s for ‘Stop It You’re Killing Me’), but by-and-large the band are on terrific form – ‘Die Laughing’ is dedicated to Phil Lynott, the crowd are encouraged to respond with ‘Hail evil priest’ every time bassist Michael McKeegan’s name is mentioned, pint glasses are flying by ‘Unbeliever’ and the general gala atmosphere is palpable.
Which makes the slight anti-climax of the second half of the set even more disappointing. Rather than remind fans that Therapy? are very much still a going concern with a blast of some more recent material (perhaps something from superb latest album ‘A Brief Crack of Light’) the band have opted to maintain the nostalgia vibe with a run-though of some of the B-sides and rarities to be found on the reissue of ‘Troublegum’. To co-opt a quote from Aliens: “it was a bad call, Ripley, it was a bad call”.
They start off fairly strongly with often-overlooked ‘killer Bs’ ‘Evil Elvis’ and ‘Autosurgery’, but as they plough through some more obscure cuts (‘Totally Random Man’, ‘Speedball’, ‘Opel Mantra’) there are noticeably fewer punters in the room who know the songs well enough to truly go for it. Which, to put a silver lining on a grey cloud, means that they have plenty left in the tank to go appropriately mental for the closing one-two punch of ‘Breaking The Law’ and ‘Potato Junkie’ / ‘I Wanna Be Your Dog’, during which Therapy pretty much redeem themselves – not a vintage performance despite the retro set, but a fitting celebration of one of the finest albums of the 1990s. Just play some new stuff too when you come ’round next year for ‘Infernal Love”s birthday, eh lads?