The Answer - live in Cardiff
Saturday October 7th. I take a day off writing the Rockfield book. Tomorrow is my birthday and I've decided today should figure as part of those celebrations. This evening together with my girlfriend Yvonne and my friend Andrew I'm heading out to see the superb new band, The Answer, live at Cardiff University. They are co-headlining with another excellent new band Roadstar.
3pm --- Things kick-off in the afternoon. Andrew comes around to my house early to watch a 2008 European Championship qualifier between Wales and Slovakia. Things start well. We down a few cold beers and everything feels fine. But the afternoon takes on a Wes Craven-type twist and things turn 'Nightmare on Elm street' bad. Wales play like they've never seen a football before and are trounced 5-1 by the mighty Slovaks here in Cardiff. At least Freddie Kruger would have put in a few hard tackles (though the razor-fingered gloves may have got him sent off quite early into the game). A big, bad, mean-looking grey cloud hangs over the magnificent Millennium Stadium. Oh Dear! It's our biggest home defeat for nearly 100 years. Me and Andrew reckon we could have played better than some of our dismal international footballers. Still Wales had a nicer looking kit than the dreary Eastern European shade of blue that Slovakia were wearing. But I'm clutching at straws here. It seems our dreams of making a major championship finals are over for another four years. Roll on the qualifying campaign for the World Cup in 2010.
Who needs football anyway? Let's stick with the rock and roll. Tonight it's the Answer and Roadstar (formerly Hurricane party) live at the University.
8.30pm The University is buzzing - it's a mixed crowd. Not everyone is a student. There are a few world weary rock fans with more than a few gray hairs, wearing faded tour t-shirts. I see a guy in a nearly bleached out old UFO shirt crash headlong into another middle aged gent coming in the opposite direction, wearing a Motley Crue tour shirt. Both are carrying beers. Or should that be 'Both WERE carrying beers!!'. And you had to admire the dedication of one guy, who wore a sleeveless denim jacket with dozens and dozens of patches sown on the back. They were all there. Zep patches, AC/DC, Rush, Van Halen, Motorhead, Saxon, Judas priest etc etc. It must have been a long night of sewing for either him or his mum.
9pm - The Answer take to the stage first (see Picture of the band in action at top) and fire the place up with a cracking version of their new single Under the Sky. If you've never heard of the Answer, they are like a cross between Led Zeppelin and the Black Crowes with a hint of Free and The Who thrown in for good measure. I reviewed them live at the Barfly in Cardiff last october (along with the amazingly wonderful and kick-ass Tokyo Dragons) for Classic Rock Magazine. They were terrific. I said that 'they oozed the spirit of the 70's' --- a quote which the band used on some of the publicity posters and adverts for their album Rise. I was well chuffed with that!!!!
Sadly we can't actually see much of the band. The stage is raised only a beer mat's width above the floor. So - with a few dozen seven foot tall, shaggy haired fans standing right in front of us - we can see very little. The three of us, though, excitedly tap each other and shout loudly whenever we do catch a brief glimpse of the singer or the guitarist. Wow! It's like being on a beach in Victorian era England and catching a momentary glimpse of a woman's bare ankle. Swoon!
The band run through their new album with great songs like the Zeppelinesque Never Too Late, the incredibly bluesy Memphis Water and Preachin' , and the superb machine-gun fire slide guitar of Into the Gutter. This band are destined for great things. If you haven't bought the album Rise yet, do so now. The lead singer Cormac Neeson is like a cross between Robert Plant, Chris Robinson and Joe Cocker. He is captivating to watch live as he struts and shakes his way across the stage. Guitarist Paul Mahon is a huge talent and probably the best slide guitar player of his generation, while drummer James Heately is a non-stop whirl of noise and rhythm ---- and bassist Mickey Waters plunders the depths of his instrument to enhance The Answer's killer rhythm section.
Andrew took a few snaps of me after the gig chatting with Cormac and with Roadstar singer Ritchie Heavanz (which I've put at the top of this Blog) without me knowing. What a pro!!!
10pm - Roadstar arrive in a swagger of massive hair and a glam rock wardrobe that the Velvet Revolver would kill for. Roadstar are also terrific. A good old Rock band (in a kind of AC/DC, Cult, Guns 'n' Roses style with a smattering of Glam rock thrown in.). I bought their debut CD Grand Hotel at the gig for a tenner and it's brilliant. A superb lively set and once again cardiff university was treated to some of the best rock music around at the moment.
A highlight of the night was my partner Yvonne - becoming a 'Mosh-pit mum'. Whilst we were stuck at the back of the stage for the Answer - in the break we dashed down to the front of the stage. Yvonne instantly made half a dozen new friends among the Roadstar faithful. When the band were on, she leapt, head banged and devil-horned with the best of them. Top rock chic. Our 20 month old son Bryn would have been proud of her - particularly as she lunged forward desparately trying to touch singer Ritchie Heavanz outstretched hand during the blazing song Roadstar. (That last photo is me and yvonne- post gig)
Then it was home for more beers and the real birthday celebrations on Sunday.
On Monday its back to the writing. I'll let you all know about the day I reunited Robert Plant and his first solo band at Rockfield to be interviewed for the book. It was a fascinating day.
(Rock Legends at Rockfield will be published by the University of Wales Press and University of Chicago Press in the US sometime in the summer of 2007.)