The Irish rockers bring their Solas tour to Bristol making a welcome return to a city that truly loves them.

The Fleece is filling up nicely as Reach hit the stage. “We are from Antwerp and we play rock” quips the band’s frontman. However, in fact, only one of those things is true, as the band are actually from Weston-Super-Mare, but they certainly do play rock – and well.

The band are tight and play a set which largely revolves around their recently released For Another EP. The likes of both “Piece Of Mind” which features some blistering guitar riffs and “Get Past This”, which shows the band at their best, both feature from said release. The set is over too soon, and the crowd are left wanting more. However, the audience is left nicely warmed up on this cold Bristol night.

Local lads The Vigil are no strangers to The Fleece. They play grunge/rock, and have a strong following, as evidenced here tonight. The band’s set starts well, with “No One Wins” and “All You’ve Done” from their debut album. However, unexpected sound problems bring the band’s set to a prompt halt as the sound of feedback resonates around the room.

A quick change of leads rectifies the problem and the lads are back in full swing straight away. The band saves the best for last with “Do You Feel Alive” which comes complete with acrobatics from The Vigil’s guitarists who are jumping around onstage whilst holding down some great riffs. The band’s solid rhythm section provide a strong foundation throughout.

The familiar sound of “The Irish Rover” marks the start of tonight’s main event. The Answer takes to the stage opening the show with “Solas” and Cormac’s voice is certainly on top form this evening.

Neeson tells the audience that there will be lots of new songs tonight, but there’s still plenty of room for a few classics along the way. He introduces the next track as ‘one from the vaults’ in the shape of fan favourite “Never Too late” from their debut album Rise.

There is a strong local connection between the band and the city of Bristol. This is particularly the case with the song “Beautiful World”, which follows shortly after. The track was co-written with local hero Neil Davidge, of Massive Attack fame, and it certainly encompasses undertones of the latter. As the song ebbs and flows it develops into a full blown hard rocking number.

Neeson tells the crowd that the band must have played nearly every venue in the city from The Church to The Louisiana (where he recalls you bang your head on the ceiling if you jump), the boat, or as it is more commonly known, “The Thekla”, which in turn brings a big cheer, and now The Fleece. He points towards the posters behind the bar and acknowledges the history which this venue has witnessed.

The band delve into their latest offering with the inclusion of both “Demon Driven Man” and “Tunnel”. The band’s critically acclaimed new album Solas has received strong reviews, and the tracks go down well as you would expect. The latter of which sees Cormac on acoustic guitar.

The crowd hang on every word of “Waste Your Tears”, from 2011’s Revival before delivering their new single “In This Land”, which will be released on St Patricks Day, 17th March. It is given a real ‘pub’ vibe to it tonight, with acoustic guitar, bouzouki and tambourine all featuring. Cormac then sings the beautiful introduction to “Thief Of Light” acapella, before the rest of the band join in.

Neeson gets up close and personal with the fans during “Demon Eyes” as he meanders his way through the crowd. The audience obeys his every command as he instructs them to get down on their knees before having them jump back up again in unison. It’s another hard rocking song which has the crowd eating out of his hand again.

“Being Begotten” sees Cormac on bouzouki for this mellow song, with acoustic guitar accompanying. The anthemic “Spectacular” lives up to its name as usual and it’s most certainly a crowd favourite. It’s now encore time, but the band don’t leave the stage in between. Instead, Cormac takes the time to thank the crowd, and tell them how they love playing Bristol, and always looks forward to being here when it comes up on the tour list.

A fantastic end to an amazing set. The Answer may have changed direction with their new album, but are as ever an incredible live act, with the enigmatic Cormac still one of the best frontmen out there, backed by his very talented band mates.

Photos by Becky O’Grady

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The Vigil
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The Answer
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The Fleece
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Event Date: 28-FEB-2017