It’s a cold March Tuesday and The Answer are back in Bristol to continue their tour in support of fifth album, ‘Raise A Little Hell’. Just like their last visit here, they are playing on board the Thekla. This is an unusual venue, as the actual stage area is downstairs in the ship’s hold.
Kicking off with I Am What I Am from their new album and running straight into Spectacular from 2013’s New Horizon, the Northern Ireland quartet hit the ground running and the pace hardly slows. Frontman Cormac Neeson is rarely still, splitting his time between singing and dancing while Paul Mahon strikes enough poses with his guitar to fill a lifetime’s worth of live album covers. The fun that they’re having though is evident from the smiles on their faces.
Interestingly, for a setlist spread across the band’s ten year career, it’s the newest songs that sound the best. Aristocrat sounds huge with a heavier riff and the echo on the intro is even more effective than the studio version. Last Days of Summer features their the now-traditional jam session in the middle, and according to Cormac, “gets longer every time we play it.” It’s also a fine example of how tight the band are as they seem to read each other’s minds while improvising.
They change gears for the mainly acoustic Strange Kinda Nothing, which proves to be one of the high points of the night. A beautiful ballad, played and sung brilliantly and described as “an emotional one” by Cormac himself, it was a truly memorable moment.
Raise A Little Hell features a glorious guitar sound which makes the riff so heavy it’s a wonder it doesn’t sink the boat. This is another song in the set which sounds much bigger and more powerful live than the recorded version and is all the better for it. During the middle section Cormac leaves the stage to mingle with the audience and encourages everyone to crouch down with him and sing along, much to the delight of the surrounding fans.
The first encore is Nowhere Freeway, which was chosen by fans in a recent Facebook poll and had most of the crowd joining in with the chorus. The final song though was also one of the best – a simply brilliant Under the Sky.
At just over 75 minutes, this may not be the longest gig but for sheer entertainment The Answer provide excellent value for money and you can’t ask for more than that.
The Answer, live at the Bristol Thekla, March 24, 2015 Photos: Duncan Everson