For some, opening a world tour in their home town might be a daunting task. Not so for Co. Down’s favourite sons The Answer. Although proud of their Northern Irish roots, the four-piece’s music conversely, has far more in common with the deep south of America. Playing a brand of bluesy, hard rockin’ ‘Swamp Music’, the band were back on home turf in Belfast tonight at the start of their ‘Raise A Little Hell’ tour.
“It’s good to be back in The Limelight”, said singer Cormac Neeson as the band kicked off proceedings. Focusing heavily on their newer material from the off, as the house lights dimmed and the four-piece exploded into life with the rock ‘n’ roll swagger of latest single ‘Long Live The Renegades’, it was immediately apparent just how much pent up energy they were ready to unleash on the Belfast audience. “Are you ready to raise some hell tonight?” asked Neeson, as they followed with ‘Spectacular’, the funky lead single from last album ‘New Horizon’.
Even this early into the show it was apparent that not only is Neeson an outstanding vocalist from the same mould as a young Robert Plant, but he is also an infectious and engaging frontman. This was none more evident than during the brooding ‘Red’. With its orchestrated call and response vocal section, it proved particularly popular with the Belfast crowd, with the singer effortlessly inciting even the most reserved of attendees. Although he’s the undoubted star, Neeson is surrounded by a tight and heavy rock ‘n’ roll band of tremendous ability. Drummer James Heatley is as hard hitting as they come, and anchors the band’s sound with precision, as evidenced during a barnstorming ‘Demon Eyes’. New song ‘The Last Days Of Summer’ meanwhile, really highlighted the interplay between all three musicians, particularly between guitarist Paul Mahon and bassist Micky Waters. With its extended jamming Led Zeppelin-esque vibe, it really gave the three instrumentalists their chance to show off.
Following the elongated musical workout, the acoustic ‘Strange Kinda’ Nothing’ offered a more relaxed change of pace. With drummer Heatley coming out from behind his kit to join the band front of stage on cajón, it showed a more measured side of the band. A brief but welcome musical respite, normal service was soon resumed when the song soon kicked into gear by the time it reached its electric climax.
A storming ‘New Horizon’ meanwhile, continued back in the same high-octane vein, receiving the biggest cheer of the night, however it was the title track from their new album that really raised the roof in the Limelight. With its tribal stomp, ‘Raise A Little Hell’ saw Neeson leave the stage and join the crowd on the floor, urging them to ‘get down’ and join him. Singing along with gutso, he wasn’t disappointed.
All that was left were the encores. A Facebook campaign vote for which tracks would be played resulted in an rousing rendition of ‘Nowhere Highway’ being performed, supported by four ‘Hellraisers’ plucked from the crowd to sing backing vocals. It was a celebratory moment that was difficult to top, however a storming ‘Evil Man’ proved to be an apt closer, with the atmosphere lifting to a new level.
A brief show, at a little over an hour and fifteen minutes, those used to longer nights out may have left feeling a little disappointed. However there was no doubting the quality of the performance tonight from one of the best Northern Irish bands of the last decade. Gene Simmons recently claimed that ‘rock is dead’. On tonight’s evidence, The Answer beg to differ. Long live the renegades.
First published on gigsandfestivals.co.uk, 8 March 2015.