And so The Answer, one of Britain’s hardest working bands, have rolled back into town to promote their new album “Raise a Little Hell” and they’ve brought a couple of up-and-coming British rock combos with them.

I miss the start of vogueish two-piece The Picture Book‘s set, but enjoy what I see. They make the typical BOOM! BOOM! THWACK! noise that it seems all blues-influenced duos make but they have a more metallic edge and marry it to strong songwriting skills. I especially like ‘The Rabbit and the Wolf’ from their “Imaginary Horse” album, which I vow to check out.

Now I’d heard of Norwich’s Bad Touch, having seen their name as support on tour with bands such as The Electric Boys and The Quireboys, but didn’t know what they sounded like. To be honest my first impressions weren’t great as I’d seen lead singer Stevie swanning around outside and he looks like a camp Musketeer. I pretty much forgive them his stylitic foibles as they turn out to be a classic sounding, British hard rock band a la Little Angels. Their opening number is strong and melodic and they get the crowd singing by the second song, which has an infectious Aerosmith groove. The Southend crowd is feeling spirited and generous and Bad Touch take full advantage. The band are airing tracks from debut album “Halfway Home” and they play the title track which has a little Faces melancholy but collapses under the weight of its attempt at emotional depth, sounding like a band trying to convey experiences they haven’t honestly acquired. Then things get light-hearted on ‘Good on Me’ – a song about wearing ladies jeans – which has a strong chorus and is appealing whether your skinny jeans days are well and truly gone or not. I didn’t catch the name of the last track but it’s the sort of breathless dash you’d expect as a closer and is a little too generic. Still, the band go off to a hearty round of applause.

Now, any band that comes on to ‘Beer Drinkers and Hellraiser’s’ by ZZ Top, as The Answer do tonight, has a lot to live up to. We’re straight into some very heavy riffing leading into ‘I Am What I Am’, which nicely sums up the band’s performance – attitude with a capital A. Then we get a breezy and funky ‘Spectacular’ and it’s here that I really notice Paul Mahon‘s talents as a guitarist. There is an incision and bite to his style that marks him above the other six stringers tonight, but also a free flowing, sinuous extravagance that calls to mind Dave Navarro. First new song up, ‘Red’, is a strut down a 1970’s Manhattan street whilst wearing The Black Crowes‘ tight crotched flares (singer Cormac Neeson does move like Chris Robinson too at times) and is full of sass. It rightly goes down a storm. It becomes apparent that The Answer are definitely best experienced as a live band as the songs come alive in the telling, the lyrics more meaningful without distraction of some clever video or flattening effect of the recording process.

Another newie, ‘Aristocrat’, is a darker, but still funky, rumble, although I can’t help but notice the influence of Led Zep‘s ‘Trampled Underfoot’. The band certainly have faith in their new material and the set includes lots of tracks from “Raise a Little Hell“, including ‘Last Days of Summer’, by their own admission a sprawling mercurial beast that teeters on the verge of self-indulgence and reminds me of ‘Manifest Destiny’ by Rival Sons. We get a change of pace with a mainly acoustic ‘Strange Kind of Nothing’, which is warm and wistful and gets the crowd swaying. The crowd are engaged and involved throughout; ‘New Horizon’ gets everyone clapping and ‘Raise a Little Hell’s’ bass-led anti-gospel sees Cormac down amongst the faithful urging us to sit on the floor for a bit of daft theatre, and that puts a smile on everyone’s face.

For the encores, ‘Evil Man’ is hard-hitting if a blur and ‘Nowhere Freeway’ works nearly as well sung solo by Cormac, but I find something about it a bit Hollywood, like it was written for a movie soundtrack and is not really representative of the band’s sound. So minor gripes aside this a great set by The Answer which now includes, with the new numbers from “Raise a Little Hell“, some truly classic songs.

The Answer – Facebook page
Bad Touch – Facebook page
The Picture Books – Facebook page

Photos by Sabrina Ramdoyal.