The Answer – Limelight 1, Belfast – Friday 11 October 2013

I’m going to lay my cards on the table right from the off and state, with supreme confidence, that this was one of the best – if not THE best – live performances by a local band in front of a local crowd that I have seen, certainly in a very, very long time.  But, we’ll come to that anon…

Cage The Gods by Marc Leach Photography
Cage The Gods by Marc Leach Photography

With live music once again having, for the second night running, beaten the venue’s resident club night into submission, with the gig both upgraded and pushed back to a much more respectable start time, the unenviable task of opening proceedings fell to rising starlets Cage The Gods.  Right from the off, the quartet showed a lot of nervousness in front of The Answer’s home ground – something most evinced by Peter Comerford’s quietly spoken (so quiet they were completely inaudible more than a few feet from the stage) introductions.  Only gangly bassist Mitch Witham seemed at ease, prowling the boards like a caged lion with meal time approaching…

Nevertheless, the quartet delivered a set of solid blues-infused rawk ‘n’ roll, filled with stomping rhythms and Black Crowes-inspired riffs, with elements of Buckcherry and Alter Bridge – the latter especially evident in their bottom-ended sound.  Overall, despite its restraint, it was a set which showed a band with a swaggering promise to follow in the footsteps of the likes of Black Spiders, Rival Sons and The Temperance Movement in the blues-rock revivalist mien:  but, they need a lot more confident to fulfil their potential.

The Answer by Marc Leach Photography
The Answer by Marc Leach Photography

The sweat is positively dripping off the wall by the time The Answer stroll onto the stage, and Paul Mahon rips into the opening chords of the title track from their stunning fourth album, ‘New Horizon’ (which I’ll return to later):  it’s a riff that has middle-aged men openly masturbating (OK, I made that bit up, but you get the analogy) and women wetting their knickers (if they’re wearing any).  When Cormac Neeson opens his throat and delivers the opening line in his trademark husky drawl, he splits the female portion of the audience straight down the middle:  half of them want to take him own and mother him, the other half want to storm the stage, rip off his black flares and lightning bolt shirt and have their wicked way with him.

With the rabid hometown crowd eating out of the frontman’s almost constantly outstretched hand – and the band in turn feeding off the energy (and reciprocate it multifold) you can only get from such an audience – the quartet rip through a well-balanced selection of songs old and new.  ‘Speak Now’ has a grunting groove while ‘Under The Sky’, complete with harmonica intro and neat drum solo, is a bluesy bruiser and the beautiful ‘Nowhere Freeway’ raises the roof, with everyone in the room singing along.

The Answer by Marc Leach Photography
The Answer by Marc Leach Photography

While Neeson by turns cajoles and cradles his audience, and the rhythm section of drummer James Heatley and bassist Micky Waters just get on with the job, albeit with joyous aplomb, Mahon plays with the lazy ease of a young Jimmy Page, while at the same time wringing the life out of his guitars, concentrating on the riffs and melodies while letting the solos speak for themselves – and even adding in some slidework which verges on the sublime:  during ‘Preachin’ the latter makes the hairs on the back of everyone’s neck stand on end.  With his bandmates, he reshapes, twists and moulds the blues to a modern environment, in much the same way Page did 40 plus years ago, which leads me back to my promised return to The Answer’s latest album…

“We could be spectacular” Neeson predicts during the single of the same name:  it was Led Zeppelin’s fourth album which propelled them to superstar, arena-filling status (not to mention global notoriety).  Could ‘New Horizon’ similarly take this young bunch of musicians from a tiny corner of the rock ‘n’ roll universe to similarly stratospheric levels?  Certainly, if there is any justice in the world, it should do and these four lads should replace a certain grumpy old git and a bunch of boring twats as Northern Ireland’s most successful and respected musical export… If they don’t:  well, I’ll still enjoy a few pints in the company and their firebrand riffage round my local any day of the week!

The Answer by Marc Leach Photography
The Answer by Marc Leach Photography

‘New Horizon’ is out now on Napalm Records.

The Answer’s tour continues as follows:

October 17th – Manchester Academy 3
October 18th – Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall
October 19th – Leeds Cockpit
October 20th – Sheffield Corporation
October 22nd – Glasgow The Garage
October 23rd – Newcastle O2 Academy
October 24th – Nottingham Rescue Rooms

October 25th – London Electric Ballroom

October 26th – Bristol Thekla

October 27th – Brighton Concorde 2

These dates also feature Tracer.

See more photographs from our gallery:

About Mark Ashby

no longer planetmosh staff
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