Midway through this gig, the Answer's frontman Cormac Neeson urges the audience to tell their friends that this show was the "best one they've ever seen, whether or not you believe that yourselves!" I wouldn't go quite THAT far (in actual fact, the best show I saw this year was AC/DC, who were supported by The Answer), but it certainly was an excellent gig.
It's been too long since the Downpatrick lads were in Liverpool; their star has steadily risen in the past three years and tonight saw them play the larger upstairs room at the o2 Academy. When they were here last, they packed out the downstairs and it looked to be a similarly-sized crowd here. Although they did not pack the larger place out this time, those present made a lot of noise and gave enthusiastic support to the guys. The set contained many numbers from the 'Everyday Demons' album alongside selected favourites from debut album 'Rise'. Shamefully, I only got the new album at the gig so I've yet to hear it properly (!) but based on the live performance, it promises to be another goodie. I do feel the band are better suited to a live setting than they are on record; 'Rise' felt a little bit over-produced to me whereas the same songs performed live just kicked that bit harder.
Watching them play again after a prolonged break (apart from the short set I saw them give in Manchester, opening for AC/DC) illustrated how they have stepped up a gear; although they were always powerful live, there's that sense of maturity in the band now; Neeson has the audience in his pocket from first song to last. The real improvement for me though comes with the rhythm section; both drummer James Heatley and bassist Micky Waters are rock-solid, the latter fills in beautifully behind lead guitarist Paul Mahon. Watching them made me think of a far more aggressive version of Free, they are steeped in the same blues tradition as Kossoff and co but they interpret it in a much harder way.
A year on the road playing the big arenas with Angus & Co. has transformed the band; no longer are they just another group of young hopefuls, now they are the finished article, an accomplished live act ready to inherit the mantle of the UK's best rock band. The crowd present tonight will certainly pass on how great this band are; they may not say it was the best show they've ever seen but it was definitely enough to ensure that when they tour again, they'll have yet more along for the ride.
I look forward to seeing the band headline at the Echo Arena in a couple of years time - Sláinte!