A tell tale sign of getting older, together with youthful policemen, neither knowing nor caring what is at No. 1 and a general irritability, is the increasing speed at which time passes.
One example was to find out that The Answer, who I tend to think of as part of a new generation of bands, were not only celebrating ten years of their debut album ‘Rise’, but were also making it the subject of the old ‘play a classic album in its entirety’ treatment.
The choice was justified however as to this day, five albums in, it still stands above their other work, and it is easy to forget that a decade ago it was quite unusual to see young acts digging back into the roots of blues-influenced classic rock, whereas now such bands are ten a penny.
The 100 Club was jam-packed, and with an overwhelmingly blokey audience that could have come from a Top Gear studio recording, when Planet Rock DJ Paul Anthony introduced the support Aaron Keylock, representing a whole fresh new generation.
The slender, lank-haired 18 year old is a superb guitarist with his supercharged take on rocking blues, not least with some dirty slide guitar playing. His young band were also an impressively tight power trio, though it is odd to see a youngster so inspired by the sound of the likes of Rory Gallagher, Foghat and Johnny Winter that belong to his grandparents, not even parents generation.
Other than a Johnny Winter cover, the set mainly consisted of originals from his upcoming album like ‘Down’ and ‘Sun’s Gonna Shine’, of which ‘Medicine Man’ was easily the best, while a tribute to the old blues legends in ‘Just One Question’ provided a welcome drop in pace mid-set.
However his voice is workmanlike at best and it may be that to break into the big time he would benefit from a dedicated vocalist, and concentrate on his phenomenal guitar promise.
The Answer of course had nothing to prove, and Cormac Neeson is an endearingly modest frontman with his self-deprecating stories. They chose the route of playing the album in its exact original order, though this may not necessarily have been a good idea when on opener ‘Under The Sky’ Cormac struggled to make himself heard, though he was soon back to his exuberant self.
‘Never Too Late’ came over as a cross between Led Zeppelin and (vocally) Reef, with some thunderous work from the rhythm section of James Heatley and Micky Waters and ‘Come Follow Me’ had fists punching the air.
The downside of playing an album in sequence is that the best known and most instant tracks are used up first, yet for me the pleasure of this gig was to hear songs for the first time in a long while – ‘Be What You Want’ was something of an epic with its closing ‘Free The People’ chant, ‘Memphis Water’ a bluesy jam, and even ‘No Questions Asked’ which I never felt was one of the strongest tracks had a powerful Zeppelin-esque groove with the added funky edge of seventies Aerosmith.
‘Into The Gutter’ was even better, its AC/DC style riffing given added edge by Paul Mahon’s slide guitar, and the guitarist was outstanding as the band rattled through ‘Sometimes Your Loving’ – though Cormac’s references to the influence of Free were lost on me, as their trademark of minimalism and giving the songs breathing space contrasts with The Answer’s approach which can be rather bludgeoning with a lot going on.
‘Leaving Today’ was relatively humdrum but for a number of songs I had been anticipating ‘Preaching’, still a live favourite to this day with the over the top slide guitar from Paul. Cormac conducted the crowd in a left vs. right contest though his usual trick of getting everyone to crouch down and jump up was given a break this time. ‘Always’ concluded the set in more mellow fashion but again it grew to a stirring climax.
A mixture of other material was promised and the first encore was ‘Keep Believing’ which I always remember being a live mainstay in their early days. and with its catchiness I thought with the benefit of hindsight it was puzzling it never made the album, perhaps at the expense of ‘Leaving Today’.
However the gig was closed by a taster of two songs being written for their next album ‘Solus’. These were a complete departure with ‘Thief Of Light’ having a very experimental feel, and the title track was also a complex and not very immediate piece of work, but the type of song that makes sense after listening all the way through, not least with a great wah-wah solo from Paul.
Perhaps this was an indication that The Answer feel their tried and trusted straight blues-rock based approach has run its course and are embarking on an ambitious change of direction. If so, this trip back to their finest hour marked the close of one chapter of their career and the start of another, but the legacy of ‘Rise’ is secure.
Review by Andy Nathan
Photos by Simon Dunkerley
Album review (Rise, reissue)
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Pete Feenstra celebrated his 300th show in October 2019. Pete heads up a five-hour blues rock marathon when “Tuesday is Bluesday” from 19:00 GMT. Listen out also for his interview-based Feature show on Sundays (20:00 GMT)
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