THE ANSWER + Support Screaming Eagles | Review
Limelight, Belfast • Friday 03 June ’16
By Gerard Walton | Photography Darren Mcveigh
The Limelight played host to a stellar night of rock and roll on Friday night, as The Answer brought their Rise album home after ten years. It’s been quite a journey for the lads from County Down, and in addition to playing that unforgettable debut from start to finish, they teased a couple of new tracks from their prospective sixth album, Solas.
An effective appetiser for this were fellow Irishmen Screaming Eagles. With frontman Chris Fry sporting a ‘Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap’ t-shirt, it was not in the least surprising to find a distinct AC/DC flavour to their sound. They really got the crowd fired up from opening track ‘Ready For The Fall’ onwards, and Chris’s occasional swigging from a Buckfast bottle seemed perfectly appropriate for the boozy good times being provided on stage.
The gig had been so hotly anticipated that it was upgraded from Limelight 2 to Limelight 1, and The Answer certainly were not shy at showing their emotions and appreciation for the anniversary event. Back when the venue was known as Spring and Airbrake, Rise was launched in a memorable show. The record has lost none of its power, and the opening one-two-three punch it possesses was replicated to perfection on this stage.
‘Under The Sky’ had the fists pumping and ‘Never Too Late’ remains an absolute beast of a song with riffs to burn. This song alone is a brilliant showcase of guitarist Paul Mahon’s chops. Cormac Neeson’s easygoing stage charm was an effective counterpoint to the fast and furious thrashing, and he told a story of under-the-influence recording studio antics that he could “neither confirm nor deny” with his mother in the audience. ‘Be What You Want’, a jangly call-to-arms that originated from one of these sessions, cooled things down a notch or two before ‘Memphis Water’ slowed things down to a woozy blues crawl that nonetheless bubbled up into a sway-along boogie by the end.
A problem with full album shows is that they sometimes expose the weaker links in a chain; for example, ‘Leavin’ Today’ is perhaps a bit too much more of the same by that point in the album, at track nine, but before that is the mid-tempo anthem ‘Sometimes Your Love’, and after is ‘Preachin’. So, not too much to complain about. In fact, ‘Preachin’ got one of the best receptions of the night, with some stellar crowd participation in the absence of the studio gospel choir.
‘Always’ closed the Rise part of the set in style. It is the obligatory soft, acoustic-ish lighters-in-the-air way to round off an album, and here the lighters were most definitely out. Of course, the crowd would never have allowed that to be the end of the set, and the band quickly returned to play ‘Keep Believin’, which is a Rise bonus track, and then a couple of newbies. ‘Thief Of Light’ was quite a delicate tune, essentially a unison duet between Cormac and bassist Micky Waters.
New album Solas, due out in October, was promised to be “something a little bit different’, and the title track, while losing none of the band’s trademark swagger, lives up to that promise. A low-slung, grungy bass rumble is what drives this track, and if both new tracks are anything to go by, a maturation of The Answer’s sound could be on the cards. Ironically enough, their debut is what has aged the best of all, and I’m sure everyone will be back for the 20th anniversary show in 2026.