The Answer // Gnar Kats // Live Review // The Limelight II // Belfast
Thursday night in Belfast and after a crazy week of gigs this is one I have been looking forward to.
The Answer, Belfast’s prodigal sons are back for a sold-out hometown gig at the heart of Belfast’s live scene – The Limelight. As I drive past the venue it looks closed and at second glance I realise it’s actually Katy Daly’s the pub in between the LL1 & LLII that is being refurbished, at this point the penny drops tonight’s show is at the LL2 – the smaller more intimate of the two venues, interesting, clearly the band wanted a more in your face experience for their return to the stage with their new album Sundowners dropping last Friday, (I think it’s written in every Irish band’s contract, an album needs to be released on St Patrick’s Day) after a seven-year hiatus and Belfast is ready for their return.
The guys have weaved their way across the UK with Oli Brown and The Dead Collective in tow. Still, tonight we are being treated to local lads Gnar Kats, an indie-pop-Alt-rock trio. They kick off early at 7:15 and whilst Belfast is still coming to terms with the Belfast tea time traffic, a healthy crowd has arrived for the early kickoff.
The Gnar Kats unleash an unholy hell with a savage set, banging out a wall of distortion for a three-piece! Having worked with The Answers Paul McMahon on their recent “Dreamers” EP they are now Living their best lives up there on stage they are having a ball of a time, tossing out their melodic beauties into the Belfast night without a care in the world. A classy set from this youthful trio whets the appetite for The Answer. In a short but sweet set, The Gnar Kats have made a statement and the Belfast crowd approve this message!
Time for a bit of fresh air as the heat in here is something shockin’ as we say in Belfast, by the time the lads take to the stage the LL2 is rammed from front to back.
As I walked back into the venue the excitement in the air was palpable. The venue was packed to capacity, and the anticipation was building as everyone eagerly awaited the arrival of The Answer, the iconic Northern Irish rock band that had taken the world by storm, are back on the local stage they have played so many times before, in a room packed with fans who equally have seen them as many times before. I am actually standing and chatting to a tog from Newcastle who has seen the band 27 times, that says it all about this band’s popularity and sense of connection with its fanbase.
As the lights dimmed and the crowd erupted into cheers, the guys entered the stage from the side door of the venue and one by one they grace the stage to rapturous applause. and I could feel the energy coursing through my veins. The first few notes of their opening song “Keep Believin” rang out, and I was immediately transported to another world – a world where the only thing that mattered was the music.
The Answer, made up of frontman Cormac Neeson, guitarist Paul Mahon, bassist Micky Waters, and drummer James Heatley, played with a passion and intensity that left no doubt that they were truly a force to be reckoned with. From their gritty vocals to their soulful guitar solos, each member of the band gave their all, and it was impossible not to be swept up in the music. For once the LL2 offered a glorious light show, Cormac and the guys were lit up like a Christmas tree and that just added to the spectacle, backlit blistering guitar solos from Paul, Cormac wailing out those beautiful raspy vocals in dappled light and Micky and James nailing those grooves it was hard not to be swept up in the magic unfolding in front of me.
The setlist was a perfect mix of old and new, with classic tracks like “Nowhere Freeway” and “Under the Sky” blending seamlessly with newer hits like “Blood Brothers” and “Sundowners”. The energy in the room was electric, and the crowd sang along with every word, fists pumping in the air as they rocked out to the music.
But it wasn’t just the music that made the night so special – it was the sense of camaraderie and community that permeated the venue. As the band interacted with the crowd between songs, it was clear that this was more than just a concert – it was a homecoming. The Answer’s roots in Northern Ireland were evident in everything they did, from their stage banter to the songs they chose to play.
As the night drew to a close, the band perfectly encapsulated the feeling of the night – a wild, unbridled celebration of music and community. As the final notes rang out, the crowd erupted into applause, and The Answer took their final bows, grinning from ear to ear.
Leaving the Limelight that night, I felt energized and invigorated, my soul nourished by the power of The Answer’s music. It was clear to me that this was a band that had not only made a name for themselves on the international stage but had also stayed true to their Northern Irish roots, bringing people together with their music and reminding us all of the power of community. A homecoming for sure but just a taster of what’s to come.