@ Newcastle O2 Academy, March 12 2012

If The Answer were a communicable disease there’d be a classic rock epidemic sweeping the UK right now.

So infectious is Cormac Neeson and his crew that it’s all too easy to succumb to a contagious mix of retro riffs and singalong hooks.

There should be a health warning every time blues rock legend in the making Paul Mahon breaks into each fresh solo.

And Micky Waters’ powerhouse partnership with James Heatley leaves heads pounding and hearts thumping, such is the focused ferocity of the duo’s trademark beat. 

Containing this hedonistic cocktail is impossible. In fact the only answer is to lie down and surrender (as one wobbly gent near the front did – twice) in the face of a groove-laden bug capable of paralysing both body and soul.

Neeson has always commanded the stage with his easy banter, flowing locks and jerky footwork. The eye of The Answer’s aural storm, this whirling dervish of a frontman delivers the brilliant Tornado seemingly intent on blowing away the classic rock competition.

One of many songs hewn from new album Revival it defines a band enjoying a new-found confidence and playing heavily on their love for a so-cool back-to-the-future sound.

Mahon and Waters have never looked so at ease flanking their irrepressible leader and never sounded so accomplished as backing vocalists quite capable of stealing the show.

If Come Follow Me, from the remarkable 2006 debut Rise, is still the band’s rousing anthem of choice then Revival offers up all manner of serious contenders.

Vida (I Want You), Waste Your Tears and One More Revival sounded sensational on a night when the Academy’s traditionally patchy acoustics did the headline act justice.

However it was current single Nowhere Freeway, bereft of the Lynne Jackaman vocal, that provided evidence that The Answer have so much more in their locker. In the absence of his Saint Jude collaborator, Neeson simply stripped down the vocal to showcase Mahon’s six-string supremacy: it worked an absolute treat.

But this was an evening of triumphs. The Union don’t yet command the profile of their touring buddies but their music is more than on a par. And if the majority of their songs lack the immediacy of The Answer’s more anthemic offerings, the quartet’s strength lies in a songwriting craft few blues rock peers can hope to match.

The chorus of Tupelo certainly sounds like an ode to Lego’s big brother but it builds into a wall of sound capable of making the hairs on the back of your neck stand tall. Step Up To The Plate is a classic rock call-to-arms and Saviour sits alongside The Answer’s One More Revival as a powerful statement of retro intent.

Luke Morley and Pete Shoulder might belong to different generations but talent spans the years. Both have bags full of the stuff and two critically acclaimed albums in two years reflect a pair of like-minded musos making up for lost time. If Morley is enjoying his post-Thunder dotage then Shoulder is revelling in the spotlight his vocal ability so richly deserves.

This co-headline package always promised to be one of the finest shows of 2012 and it comfortably exceeded the hype. If this is the future of British rock then good times lie ahead.

Simon Rushworth