The Answer + Oli Brown & The Dead Collective @ O2 Institute, Birmingham – Friday 17th March 2023


The stars are aligning tonight; It’s St Patricks’ Day, The Answer‘s new album, Sundowners, is released and the band are in town at the traditional heart of Birmingham’s Irish community in Digbeth to mark their return after a 7 year hiatus. Tonight promises to be special.

First up though is Oli Brown & The Dead Collective. The one time blues purist turned hard rock trio with Raveneye has now shed another skin to reveal his latest project. Another trio but not in the conventional sense in that it consists of Brown, drummer Wayne Proctor. and second guitarist Sam Wood (who seems to be keeping very busy currently in his various bands).

While still clearly rock and blues oriented it’s less in your face and more controlled and considered with a rawness. Opener ‘Father’ leads off with the drums before the guitars kick in with a brooding malevolence. ‘Haunted’ in particular with when combined with dry ice and minimal back lighting give an almost cinematic experience. In the final song ‘Home Sweet Home’ both Brown and Wood get to stretch out with equally impressive solos. Their short set is over too soon. Having offered up something a little different to the norm, I’m reminded of the first time I saw Walking Papers who made the same impression for the same reason making it essential to explore them further.

“Do you like my new jacket?” asks The Answer frontman Cormac Neeson “I had to get a new one quickly after my other one was stolen.” He is, of course, referring to the theft of the band’s van containing all their equipment for the tour during their rehearsals. It underlines just some of the adversity the band have faced in getting this comeback tour on the road. If anything it seems to have made them even more determined and their positivity is endearing “I feel sorry for the thieves, because there’s going to be some bad karma following them around for a long time” he continues, “We’ve already gotten over it”.

The Answer – Birmingham O2 Institute – 17th March 2023

Gotten over it they certainly have, and they hit their stride immediately with the opening song; old favourite ‘Keep Believing’ is pure rock n roll and an absolute belter to get things underway. They then waste no time in getting their teeth into new material with ‘Blood Brother’. While the new album has only just landed today, it has had enough of a push in the media to ensure familiarity with at least a couple of the new songs played tonight, but the fact that they play eight tracks from the album tonight gives some indication of their conviction of the quality of the new material, and they’re certainly not wrong.

The title track from ‘Sundowners’ sees Mahon switch to a dobro guitar and its’ slide intro along with Neeson’s harmonica transports us off into the world of Mississippi blues. Micky Waters’ bass and James Heatley’s drums give the song its distinctive unhurried groove. ‘California Rust’ is a classic blues rock track with Paul Mahon’s guitar leading the charge.

Elsewhere old favourites are peppered throughout the set; ‘Under The Sky’ gets a huge response from the crowd and the tempo is maintained for ‘Nowhere Freeway’ just in case there was anybody that had forgotten just how good a live band The Answer are.

The main set ends with another new one, ‘Want You To Love Me’ which thunders along like a freight train, but they’re not off stage for long before they return with Neeson singing a traditional Irish toast and bestowing good health on all. Slainte back at you. It’s a brief respite before ‘Livin’ On The Line’ and and exhilarating ‘Preachin’ which has Neeson joining the crowd and it serves as good a way as it always has to close their set. It’s good to have them back, and if you’ve not managed to catch them on this run of dates, then there’s plenty of opportunity to see them around the UK when they’ll be delighting the crowds at festivals.

Keep Believin’
Blood Brother
Oh Cherry
Under the Sky
Nowhere Freeway
All Together
California Rust
Come Follow Me
Always Alright
Want You To Love Me

Livin’ On The Line