The Answer – Ahoghill, Diamond Rock Club – 19 December 2015

Some people would go to any lengths for a great party… and, by this, I don’t just mean those of us who regularly board the Beer Bus for the regular trips to the best little rock club in the country:  no, I mean some of the determined folk who have joined us on this particular occasion, who have travelled across the schuck from jolly old England – and even forsaken the sunshine of Italy for the freezing cold climes of the County Antrim hills to enjoy our company and that of a particular band of local rawk ‘n’ roll reprobates by the name of The Answer at their little pre-Christmas hoedown.

Matt Fitzsimons of Gasoline Outlaws at the Diamond Rock Club, 19 December 2015A goodly proportion of those on the outward journey from Belfast openly admitted that they had never heard of openers Gasoline Outlaws – with a few also equally forthcoming in confessing they didn’t even know the name of the support act!  The quartet quickly set the situation aright, kicking things off in an energetic style that is matched by the good-sized crowd already assembled in this beautiful little venue, and by the dense groove of ‘The Shrouded Wolves’ new fans have been well and truly won over.  Wee Matt’s huge vocals are as acerbic as ever, cutting through the provocative lyrics of the likes of ‘Stand As One’ and the toweringly emotive ‘Someday’ with the accuracy of a hot knife through butter.  The former song has a Black Star Riders-esque quality, accentuated by Matt’s use of acoustic guitar, and it’s defiant sentiment is elegiacally counterpointed by the latter, as the Outlaws prove once again that they are perhaps the single most powerful new band to have come out of this wee country in the past 12 months or so…

Setlist:  Rising Up / The Shrouded Wolves / Lie / Come On / Stand As One / Someday / Let Me Out (Electric Mary cover) / Nothing On Me / Heart & Soul / Outlaws

Paul Mahon’s winding, Page-esque guitar solo gets The Answer’s set off to a deceptively mellow start, before the rest of the band join in the rowdy ‘I Am What I Am’, while the bump and grooving grunt of ‘Spectacular’ has every head in the place nodding and every hip gyrating – well, as much as some of their much-needed replacements will let them!

Cormac Neeson of The Answer at the Diamond Rock Club, 19 December 2015“This place is almost ten years old, and some of these songs are as well – let’s hope you remember some,” points out charismatic frontman Cormac Neeson on the intro to ‘No Questions Asked’, referring to the pending anniversaries of both the Diamond and the ‘Rise’ album, which gets some rare airings this evening.  The singer also displays his characteristic humour: “Lately, we’ve been taking a lot of Acid and listening to Pink Floyd… OK, we haven’t been taking acid, but we have been listening to Floyd,” he says as the band make a rare venture into covers territory, with an anachronistic version of ‘Money’.  The band had promised a few surprises on this special night, and the next comes in form of the superb, Zeppelin-esque bluesy vocal duel between Neeson and Stevie ‘Blues’ Horner of Lo Mejor, as the band delve into their back catalogue again for ‘Into The Gutter’.

It may be the latter half of December, but that doesn’t stop the quartet recalling the ‘Last Days Of Summer’, which proves – as if it was needed – that this is the sort of environment where the band can relax, let loose and flex their muscles, which they do on an elongated jam, before the band finish their main set with an invitation to live up to the title track of their current album, ‘Raise A Little Hell’, on which Neeson literally brings everyone in the venue to their knees before getting them up and jumping  once more with the rallying call encore of ‘Come Follow Me’, which we would all gladly and unquestioningly do no matter the freezing cold conditions outside the roasting hot venue, and ‘Be What You Want’ – and, again, we don’t need a second invitation.

Over the past ten years, the Diamond has been the venue for many a cracker night out.  This end-of-year show by one of the venue’s most frequent and popular visiting acts once again demonstrates why those of us who make the regular trip into the wilds of culchie-dom return from there with smiles on our faces, a warmth in our souls and songs in our hearts…

Setlist:  I Am What I Am / Spectacular / No Questions Asked / Red / Sometimes Your Love / Money / Gone Too Long / Into The Gutter / Last Days Of Summer / Some Kind Of Nothing / Nowhere Freeway / Raise A Little Hell

Encore:  Come Follow Me / Be What You Want

About Mark Ashby

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