Hometown gigs, for any band – but especially those who have reached a certain international standing – are always a mixture of anticipation, excitement and nervousness for all concerned, for both the artist and their audience. Especially more so when the band in question is premiering new material – most of which has not been previously heard by the vast majority of those assembled to listen to it. For the former, it is the anticipation and excitement of playing in front of an audience among many are undoubtedly good friends, and even family, combined with the nervousness of how said new material will be received; for the latter, it is the anticipation of finding out what this new material sounds like and the nervousness of whether or not it’s going to live up to their expectations.
For the four Norn Iron lads collectively known as The Answer, the main emotion on this, the first night of what promises to be another epic trek to all arts and parts in support of their excellent new ‘Raise A Little Hell’ offering (see review link below), seemed to be one of pure adrenalin-fuelled excitement, with frontman Cormac Neeson a pent-up ball of energy as he conducted interviews backstage beforehand…
Similarly, the excitement in the packed venue – which was sold out for the second time in three days, once again disproving the adage of a certain so-called “superstar” that “rock ‘n’ roll is dead” (as Ricky Warwick had said a few days earlier, “not in fucking Belfast it’s not”) – is almost edible as the house lights dimmed and first drummer James Heatley and then bassist Micky Heatley thump out the intro to ‘Long Live The Renegades’, the first track from the new album. Paul Mahon almost saunters into the main riff in his typical coolhand style, before the fiery frontman bounds on to the stage and rips open his throat.
As mentioned above, Neeson is a ball of fizzing energy, constantly dancing around the stage and shaking his (increasingly graying) mane in the manner of a man genuinely enjoying what he’s doing. As mentioned in our review of the album, ‘RALH’ sees the singer adopting an easier, less forced style, and this is very much translated into the live environment as, despite his unbridled enthusiasm, he also seems a lot more relaxed. His voice his rich and mature, especially on the likes of new single ‘Red’ (released on the very day of the gig): the songs groovy rhythm, cavorting riff and writhing melody is perfectly suited to the occasion, and quickly has many of those present singing along to its infectious chorus.
The rhythm section of Heatley and Waters are as tight and solid as ever, providing the concrete foundation for Mahon to deliver his sublime guitar workouts, which in turn mix deep bluesy, almost psychedelic grooves with traditional blues-infused hard rock, from the hard-ass slide and dirty grunt of ‘Into The Gutter’ to the extended sequence in the majestic ‘Last Days Of Summer’. The band interrupt the momentum by trying something new, with Heatley climbing, somewhat awkwardly given the space constrictions, from behind his kit to sit astride a beatbox and Mahon switching to acoustic for the beautiful ‘Strange Kinda Nothing’, on which you can virtually feel Neeson’s voice floating mere millimetres above your head.
‘New Horizon’, the title track from their last album, picks up the pace again in what is a thoughtful and well mixed set, featuring some tasty and little played songs from their back catalogue, and one which also bravely drops some fan favourites, while the main set finishes with the swaggering ‘Raise A Little Hell’ itself, which sees Neeson maintaining one tradition by climbing over the barrier and into the crowd to get everyone down on their knees, leaving the lone security guard with his only job of the evening – getting him safely back on to the stage in one piece. After the briefest of exits, the band return, with Neeson asking for four volunteers to join him on stage for the song that poll on Facebook said fans wanted to hear – ‘Nowhere Highway’: although, from my vantage point, I’d swear the sound guys cleverly switched the impromptu choir’s microphone off, as the crowd delivered the chorus much more vocally…
It may have been a nervous night for The Answer – the first night of a tour, and in their home town. But, the capacity crowd had clearly been anticipating it, and the calm energy of the show demonstrated the ability of a band confident in what they are doing and able to deliver accordingly.
Long Live The Renegades / Spectacular / Demon Eyes / Red / Into The Gutter / I Am What I Am / Last Days Of Summer / Strange Kinda’ Nothing / New Horizon / Raise A Little Hell / Nowhere Freeway / Evil Man
‘Raise A Little Hell’ is released on Monday (March 9) via Napalm Records. Read our review HERE.
Following tonight’s show in Dublin, The Answer also will be raising their particular brand of hell across the rest of the UK from Monday, with dates as follows:
Monday 9 March – Manchester, Academy 3
Tuesday 10 March – Leeds, The Key Club
Wednesday 11 March – York, Fibbers
Thursday 12 March – Aberdeen, The Lemon Tree
Friday 13 March – Glasgow, The Garage
Saturday 14 March – Newcastle, Riverside
Monday 16 March – Grimsby, Yardbirds
Tuesday 17 March – Liverpool, Arts Club
Wednesday 18 March – Southend, Chinnery’s
Thursday 19 March – Nottingham, Rescue Rooms
Friday 20 March – Birmingham, Institute
Saturday 21 March – Sheffield, The Corporation
Monday 23 March – Norwich, Waterfront
Tuesday 24 March – Bristol, Motion
Wednesday 25 March – Brighton, Concorde 2
Thursday 26 March – London, O2 Academy Islington
Friday 27 March – Exeter, Lemon Grove
Watch our recent interview with Cormac Neeson HERE.[flickrapi user=”planet mosh” get=”photoset” id=”72157648882503534″ size=”z” count=”100″]