The Answer – Ahoghill, Diamond Rock Club – 16 December 2017 Print E-mail
Written by Mark Ashby and The Dark Queen   
Saturday, 23 December 2017 04:20

It was always going to be a special night.  It always is when The Answer play the best li’l rock club on the island of Ireland. And even more so when it’s their traditional Christmas party (although, as Cormac pointed out, they’d missed last year’s appointment). So much so that fans had come from as far as East Anglia and Spain to be part of the occasion. However, tonight was going to be even more special, as – unbeknownst to many present – it was to be the band’s last gig for quite some time as the lads prepare to spend the foreseeable future concentrating on various side projects… but, that’s a story for another day…


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The special nature of the night ensured that is was one not to be missed – no matter what!  They say that we put our bodies on the line for what we believe in – and here at URHQ we believe in rock ‘n’f’n’ roll mofos, so a little thing like a crippling attack of gout wasn’t going to stop myself and the good lady boarding thon beer bus with our multi-national delegation of fellow party animals (some of whom were making their first pilgrimage to Cough City) and heading into the wilds of the Antrim hills to hear the rock ‘n’ roll gospel according to the good reverends Neeson, Mahon, Waters and Heatley.


There’s plenty of time for a few pre-show sups – purely for medicinal purposes, you understand –before the lights dim, the intro kicks up dust and the warm embrace of ‘Solas’ uncoils slowly and inevitably from the speakers, bringing light into the darkest recesses of this winter night.


“We’re here to ease you into Christmas with some nice mellow music,” proclaims Neeson, smiling from ear to ear and looking more than at ease in the environment in which he feels most comfortable – up close and personal with a live crowd.  Aye, right lad!  ‘On And On’ thumps and grooves, and has every head in the place nodding, before the special nature of the night is emphasized with the first of its pleasant surprises – a rare airing of ‘Pride’, from ‘Everyday Demons’, which Neeson confesses “we’ve never played in Ireland before!” Which is a real shame, as it’s a terrific song with a fire and energy characteristics of its deliverers.


The Answer 10


Neeson may be the focal point of the band, but it’s engine room is the rhythm section of bassist Micky Waters and drummer James Heatley, who are tighter than the wire’s on the latter’s snare drum.  After more than a decade together, they have a natural rapport and camaraderie, delivering big rumbling rhythms which allow guitarist Paul Mahon to show off what a sublime talent he truly is, especially when he slips thon slide onto his finger and then up and down his fretboard. The frontman takes every opportunity to recognize and applaud his bandmates, and ensure that the audience do so – and, of course, we’re all only too eager and pleased to acknowledge the sublime talents of this trio of damn fine rock ‘n’ roll musos.


After some passionate ‘Preachin’, of the rock ‘n’ roll variety, of course, Neeson points out that it’s been two years since The Answer played “this little gem” of a venue, remarking that the missing of last year’s Christmas show may have been partially responsible for getting Donald Trump elected:  “yeah, maybe it’s our fault – or maybe it’s Derwin’s fault” the singer proclaims, referring to the club’s affable head honcho… the audience definitely agree it was all Derwin’s fault (personally, I blame Oakesy, but what would I know?), before Cormac dedicates ‘Faith Don’t Die’ to the star of the biggest reality TV show on the planet!


Neeson makes amends for his humorous jibe at his good friend by dedicating a worthy cover of Rose Tattoo’s ‘Rock N Roll Outlaw’ to the promoter, before the lads take up over that ‘New Horizon’ to ‘Raise A Little Hell’.  I mentioned how Neeson loves to get up close and personal with his crowd… well, he equally loves to get down and among them, as he shows, possibly ironically, at this point when he gets as many people as he can (and are able) to join him sitting on the floor.


The Answer 1


Returning to the stage, he immediately has the whole room bouncing again – the local darts team playing the room below must have sworn the ceiling was gonna come down ‘round them – before talking about their recent tour with Mr Big introduces the evening’s sole ballad, ‘Strange Kid Of Nothing’: the couple from East Anglia who were sat in front of us on the beer bus must have been well chuffed, as it was the one song they had wanted to hear! But, then, that’s Cormac for you -  always happy to oblige!  At the end of the track, he reveals that Heatley has been hitting the drums so hard that the club’s “little naked man” mascot has fallen off his perch on top of the adjacent speaker:  however, he’s pleased to report that “he’s still got it up and nothing fell off” – a reference to a particularly protruding part of the statue’s anatomy.


After suitably rousing renditions of ‘Spectacular’, which again has everyone dancing and singing again, and ‘Demon Eyes’, Neeson speaks with affection of the band’s mutual respect and love for the late Malcolm Young – The Answer, after all, got their big break opening for ‘DC on the ‘Black Ice’ tour – before the lads pay tribute with a suitably respectful version of ‘If You Want Blood…’.  And there’s one surprise present to unwrap, and it comes in the form of ‘In This Land’: “we didn’t play this on the last tour, but we did it five times during soundcheck, so if we fuck it up, we’re in trouble” proclaims Neeson. They don’t and they’re not!


And, of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without snow, and so, at the second attempt, it comes, prompting Neeson to change the words of closer ‘Come Follow Me’ to ‘Come Snow On Me’, as they bring the curtain down, at least figuratively, on another impassioned performance:  no needless encore, no fannying about, just 100 minutes or so of blues- and dedication-soaked rock ‘n’f’n’ roll.  If this is indeed the last we’re going to see of The Answer for some time, then what better way to say their temporary goodbyes than in front of a bunch of rabid fans in a sweat-soaked room above a tiny village pub in the arse end of nowhere – ‘cos that’s rock ‘n’ roll and that’s the way we like it!


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