The Answer and Oli Brown & The Dead Collective play an intimate date at The Key Club in Leeds
Words and Photos by John Hayhurst
I’m no fan of the Key Club in Leeds, low ceiling, low stage means that if you want to see more than a post box hole view of the bands heads then you need to be in the first 4 or 5 rows and don’t get me started on the lighting or the pillars in the way (I’m a photographer – you might have guessed). I just don’t understand why it gets picked as a premier club for touring rock bands to play when there are other better venues not too far away – Belgrave, The Library and the Wardrobe being 3 similar sized rooms that I can think of straight away.
It has been 7 long years since The Answer played these parts and having just released a cracking new record ‘Sundowners’, it is a way overdue return for the Classic Rock band from Northern Ireland to blow the roof off this shithole.
However first we have a surprise I hadn’t anticipated, I see the drums of Mix Engineer and Producer Wayne Proctor and the words Oli Brown written on them, this is a guitarist/singer I have seen many times in Raven Eye and more recently with Toby Lee in York supporting Joanne Shaw Taylor. Then from the wings Sam Wood appears to check and tune his guitar. Sam was previously with Wayward Sons and recently Black Star Riders where he duelled with Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy fame. So this is a supergroup of sorts, and they take to the crappy dimly lit stage where I’m surprised Oli can actually see his guitar its that dark.
There is no bass player but Oli fills that gap with some rumbling deep notes and as for the soloing, well that is straight out of the hard rock blues handbook, classy rock orientated tunes with plenty of light and shade spaces between. Sam riffing for all he is worth, it makes for an interesting 30 mins of tunes I had not heard before, and yet they didn’t sound too unfamiliar. It was enough for me to check out new EP ‘Prelude’ on Spotify on the way home in the car. He played it in full and favourite ‘Haunted’ has now been replayed several times since – check out the solo about 3:15 in to the track, it is a thing of beauty.
Oli Brown Setlist: Like a Father, Everything You Want, Sinking Ship, Haunted, Heard it all Before, Your Love, Home Sweet Home.
Classic Rock, the genre that is always out of date and yet never seems to wane, new classic rock festivals are springing up all the time and by the looks of the audience here we do have some younger lads coming to experience it with their parents. This is the 7th Studio album but it has been 7 years wait to see them live and whilst Covid has played its part in that, it still feels like an age ago. So when they burst into Keep Believin’ from the off you feel it will be a celebration of all things past.
Oh No!! That isn’t the case, this is clearly a promotional tour for the album that was only released last week and they are going to play 2/3rds of it tonight. However, whilst that might strike a blow into the heart of every classic rock fan (along with the dreaded drum solo break), the new tracks they play tonight are more than a match for the old. ‘Blood Brother’ and ‘Oh Cherry’ are monsters, Cormac is shimmying with his mic like Steven Tyler and getting reactions from the crowd like they were hit singles from 10 years ago. James Heatley is wearing a Soundgarden T-shirt and literally banging the crap out of the kit during ‘Blood Brother’ opening salvo.
Paul Mahon has a slick new haircut and pulls guitar solos and gurning faces like the best of them. “Theres only one…Paul Mahon” is the cry from about 5 lads in the corner. Cormac pulls out a harmonica and gives us some blues harp on ‘California Rust’, then a tambourine. He has a new jacket on but as he explains “All of our clothes were nicked recently” but he sees it as a positive step to start new. That’s todays The Answer in a nutshell, they have shed the old and are starting afresh with new vigour and some banging new tunes too.
It is no surprise though that they intermittently throw in a biggie as ‘Nowhere Freeway’ is casually placed early in the set (I’m still missing Lynne Jackaman though) and we also get ‘Under The Sky’, ‘Spectacular’ and ‘Come Follow Me’ from the older albums.
After the encore break they play my favourite track off the latest album ‘Livin On The Line’ is a storming song that reminds me of The Black Crowes Sting Me, mixed with Saxon at their finest but with a bit more groove in the chorus. It’s perfect and definitely worth the encore slot for a brand new track.
They then close expectedly with Preachin’ going back to where it all started, some mean slide guitar from Mahon and more dancing from Neeson. It’s all over very quickly, but surely this is just a new start and we expect festivals and another tour in the Autumn once the album has settled in and hopefully not another seven year gap!
The Answer Setlist:
Under The Sky
Come Follow Me
Want You To Love Me
Livin’ On The Line