Sonisphere Festival

After the power goes out Andrew Johnston gets some Therapy? at Sonisphere

In 1995, Therapy? played as main support to Metallica at Castle Donington – above Slayer, Skid Row, Slash’s Snakepit and White Zombie. Fast-forward 15 years and the Larne trio are still on the road and still playing prestige events – just slightly farther down the running order. At this, the second Sonisphere Festival in the grounds of Knebworth House – the hallowed site of Led Zeppelin’s final UK gig – Andy Cairns and co are in one of the tented stages, propping up the bill beneath tattooed screamers the Gallows and a solo set by Slipknot’s Corey Taylor.

If singer-guitarist Cairns, bassist Michael McKeegan and drummer Neil Cooper are bothered, they aren’t showing it as they amble onstage on a warm Saturday night to perform 1994’s breakthrough Troublegum album. Yes, Therapy? have joined the likes of Stiff Little Fingers and Ash in that nostalgic lark of playing a classic record in its entirety (Inflammable Material and 1977 in those bands’ cases). For fans, it’s a real treat, though hopes of it being a one-off are shattered by the presence of posters around the festival site advertising a similar gig in London for November.

Still, the tent is rammed and ready to party like it’s 1994 as Therapy? launch into ‘Knives’. However, it all goes a bit tits-up when, after just 30 seconds of Cooper’s frenetic drumming and Cairns’ menacing vocals, the power cuts. No sound, no lights. Ten minutes pass, then they give it a second go. This time, we get a minute in. By now, people are losing their patience, no one more so than

Cairns’ guitar tech, who is calling for the promoters to come up and explain what the hell is going on. The tent is emptying, but power is finally restored and the Ulstermen steam into Troublegum in all its 14-track glory. ‘Screamager’, ‘Nowhere’, ‘Die Laughing’ and ‘Trigger Inside’ are still every bit as catchy as they were when Therapy? first took the music scene by the scruff of the neck. Those who have stuck around revel in the hook-laden mish-mash of punk, metal, industrial, dance and rock.

Elsewhere at Sonisphere, Friday-night headliner Alice Cooper remains the finest live act ever to be beheaded, hung, decapitated and injected with an oversized syringe filled with, yes, ‘Poison’, while Saturday’s top draw Rammstein bring more fire, explosions and barking in German than the Third Reich. Other highlights include Slayer on Sunday, with new tracks ‘World Painted Blood’ and ‘Hate Worldwide’ sounding just as savage as unhinged oldies ‘South Of Heaven’, ‘War Ensemble’ and ‘Angel Of Death’, and UK stalwarts the Cult, whose arena-sized swagger and blazing musicianship shows Saturday’s second-stage headliners Mötley Crüe up for the wheezing, complacent sham they now are.

By the time Sonisphere main-men Iron Maiden appear on Sunday, we have also been treated to Swedish urchins Enforcer – a band whose hearts belong to a time when drop-D tunings and drum triggers were simply nightmare visions of the future – and a string of comedians, including Brian Posehn, Sean Hughes and the genius Jim Jeffries, whose politically incorrect schtick draws gasps from even the most heavily tattooed-and-pierced audience members. Henry Rollins’ Sunday-morning sermon also raises a lot of laughs amidst the political soapboxing. Anthrax, complete with recently reinstated singer Joey Belladonna, and Soulfly, featuring ex-Sepultura man Max Cavalera, just about scrape by with backward-looking greatest-hits sets, meanwhile.

As for Maiden, the nine-minute-epic-after-nine-minute-epic routine, with only six vintage tracks in a two-hour show, is a lot to wade through, but frontman Bruce Dickinson’s enthusiasm is infectious, and CultureNorthernIreland ultimately submits to the galloping beat. In what has become a standard rant in any Maiden set, Dickinson blasts the UK media for ignoring heavy metal. But the quote of the weekend, and the perfect riposte to those who would write off hard rock, comes from Sunday’s second-stage headliner Iggy Pop. As the shirtless Stooges legend writhes on his belly, shrieking along to James Williamson’s proto-punk riffs and Steve Mackay’s saxophone squalls, he points out to the 55,000-strong crowd that, 'Yes, this too is a form of music.'


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