Gifted Live – Therapy?
Thursday 5th October 2012 – The Empire, Belfast
Lights! Camera! Action! Belfast’s biggest monthly variety performance is crammed with everything from soulful singer-songwriters to guitar-fuelled rock ‘n’ roll, and everything else in between. What better way to kick off Gifted Live in Belfast’s Empire Music Hall than with the fiery red-headed songstress Shauna Tohill and her band Silhouette. Opening with ‘Running against the Wall’, immediately the vocal powers of Ms. Tohill fill every corner of the auditorium. For ‘Frozen Eyelids’, she encourages the audience to close their eyes in keeping with the song’s lyrics, a gesture which brings to life the magic of the song. The obvious choice for closing the set is perhaps the band’s most accomplished single to date ‘Can’t Keep Up,’ which has even those new to Silhouette singing along, due to its television fame. However, if the rest of the set is anything to go by, then there are plenty more heartfelt pop hits hidden beneath that leopard print dress of hers.
The cameras then swing round to the middle of the music hall where Robert Vincent is waiting to treat us to his brand of acoustic, blues-tinged folk rock from Liverpool. The duo’s music is well suited to this intimate section of the venue, dusted with fairy lights. The intricate guitar melodies throughout the short set capture the attention of the crowd, Vincent’s gutsy singing style is well complemented by the soulful vocal harmonies particularly in the opening number “Blue”. This 3 song set does not seem long enough, but as they say, “always leave them wanting more.”
Having replaced his usual backing band with a laptop, Joshua Burnside seems rather nervous about his performance on the stairs. Armed with his trusty banjo, the singer style is solidly built on the foundation of traditional Celtic music. Enthralling the crowd, you could hear a pin drop during his short but sweet performance; one which wouldn’t seem out of place at lock-in in a small town Irish pub.
After a hyperactive live performance last time out at Gifted Live, we are treated to an interview with local rap-rock star BeeMickSee. Talking of collaborations with some of the other artists on show tonight it seems the future looks pretty interesting for this eclectic artist. He then hits the stage for just the one song this time, but after the hijinks of last time, this performance is a lesson in urban excellence. Recruiting a soulful vocal flavour, the aggression of the quick fire lyrics are contrasted by some soaring almost gospel like harmonies. This cameo performance is one of the stand out moments of the night. At the end Mr. MickSee milks the applause, and to be fair, he deserves it.
Singer-songwriter Jason Clarke takes to the Empire’s majestic main stage with his smooth yet powerful voice and accompanying band. At the centre of Clarke’s performance is his beating heart which he proudly wears on his sleeve, as he describes the firework displays of a first date in ‘Undercover’, or the perfecting relationships in the slower but equally powerful ‘Dust into Gold.’ Like a scarf on a winter’s day, or a piece of chocolate melting in your mouth, there’s a real warmth to Clarke’s performance and you can’t help but fall a little in love with the curled crooner particularly in such mesmerising surroundings. As he draws his set to a close with a new fast-paced track, it’s clear that even a few die hard Therapy? fans waiting in the wings have been seduced by Clarke and his velvet vocal performance.
As has become customary, over the course of the evening we are treated to video interviews and pre-recorded performances from some great bands and artists. The first comes from a group from Dublin named Original Rude Boys. Their performance gives us a taste of their innovative brand of Paolo Nutini-esque folk, but with a twist. A rapping lyrical style gives an impression of a poetry that is lost in other contemporary music. ‘Stars in their Eyes’ is a type of Irish romantic R ‘n’ B that, if played when you’re with the right sort of girl, will make her putty in your hands. Mojo Fury is up next, known for their raucous live shows (many of them taking place in this venue) and their aggressive beats. In this format we see a softer side showing off their obvious musicianship. This heartfelt performance showcases the way in which their song writing has matured over the years, particularly during “All in Awe”. The Red Velvetines have a funky, soulful style with an easy vocal flair. Their set slips into the vibe of the night with ease, as it could stand alongside almost any genre of music or type of band. ‘Tell Me Sister’ is the standout track here; the chilled groove of this song is suited to both the build-up to a night out or something to make you feel better with an alcohol induced sore head. The final video comes from Adela and the Meanits, their eclectic song writing and contemporary folk feel is very refreshing as you would have to travel very far to find anything quite like this.
An explosive riff introduces Fighting with Wire to the stage for the sweat sodden, hands in the air opener, aptly named ‘Call To Arms’. So far the night hasn’t had the fiery hallmarks of what has made the Gifted night famous (although that’s not to say it hasn’t been enjoyable), but as the hours slide by and the patrons sobriety is generally forgotten you can feel a restlessness in the air. This trio from Derry are the cure for the audience and they dominate the stage, assaulting our ear drums with a sonic attack. Songs like ‘Didn’t Want to Come Back Home’, from their new album Colonel Blood, sounds right at home on this stage and the crowd certainly show their appreciation. ‘Waiting on a Way to Believe’ sounds like it could be played on any sized stage, with an appeal that transcends anyone from teenager to 40-something rocker. The band finish the set with ‘Everybody Needs A Nemesis’ which has certainly warmed the crowd up and is an excellent precursor to the arrival of Therapy?. As Cahir O’Doherty says during the set, they have “played some of our first gigs at Gifted, now it’s become massive”, and Fighting With Wire have grown at a similar pace and have the potential to grow to massive proportions.
If the crusty band t-shirt wearing crowd are anything to go by then it’s about time that Belfast had its required dose of Therapy. Never to disappoint during a homecoming gig, Therapy arrive on stage in their sharpest black suits and kick things off with one of their earliest songs, ‘Meat Abstract.’ What follows is a set list comprised of an amalgamation of classics and tracks from their new album A Brief Crack of Light, giving the angsty crowd the perfect excuse to hurl themselves about and give the band the homecoming reception they truly deserve. One particular highlight of the set include ‘Potato Junkie’, which allows the audience to put their own vocals to use by chanting the iconic lyrics “James Joyce is fucking my sister,” while the band look down at their monstrous creation with sheer psychotic glee. The sing-along antics continue with relatively new track ‘Living in the Shadow of a Terrible Thing’ and the deranged anthem ‘Die Laughing, a song which the band dedicate to various troubled souls such as Amy Winehouse, Kurt Cobain, Alex Higgins, George Best and…er…Alan from LaFaro. In fact, Therapy aren’t ones to shrug off their peers in the local music scene as they dedicate the warbling bass led track ‘Exiles’ to Axis Of, LaFaro, Silhouette and many more Northern Irish based acts, a ceremonious gesture of them passing the rock and roll torch from one generation to the next. That’s not to say there still isn’t plenty of life left in the band. In fact Andy Cairns proves that after all these years he still is one of Northern Ireland’s best frontmen around, not afraid to throw himself into the army of crusty t-shirt wearing Therapy patrons during guitar solos or swirl around on his back mid riff. From his malevolent wide-eyed stares and demented grins, to commanding the crowd give devil jazz hands, he has a stage presence nothing short of Satanic…if Satan had been born in East Antrim. Therapy’s set is not only loud, obnoxious and turbulent, but the unhinged, schizophrenic guitar riifs and demonic basslines are only enhanced by the somewhat macabre settings of the Empire Music Hall.