Cormac Neeson @Newcastle Trillians, May 14 2019

It takes guts to go solo. It takes talent to pull it off. And it takes class to tread that incredibly fine line between self-indulgence and endearing authenticity. Cormac Neeson, better known as the flamboyant frontman for classic rockers The Answer, ticked all three boxes and more as he eased into a semi-acoustic set rich in emotion and enduring quality.

Taking a break from the day job and homing in on some deeply personal subject matter was a brave move by the amiable Ulsterman. That debut solo album White Feather came about almost by accident (Neeson flew to Nashville to write songs for fellow musicians only to return with the seed for his new record firmly planted and sprouting) adds to the sense of realism and originality underpinning a wholly unexpected creative tour de force. Stripped down and live, White Feather’s finest moments took on an ethereal quality.

Sweet Gentle Love – a haunting co-write with Sinead McGarry – did what it says on the tin and afforded Neeson the first of several opportunities to live and breathe some truly affecting material. Home To Me almost brought the house down before the brilliant Broken Wing – a heartfelt tribute to the main man’s son – demanded the full attention of a fast filling crowd.

And the majority of the crowd, of course, belonged to headliner Shawn James of Shapeshifters fame. The American watched every minute of Neeson’s show-stealing set and led the applause as Neeson called time on a memorable half hour.

But the promise of an autumn return – with full band in tow – was bittersweet. Neeson will be welcomed back with open arms but there’s a sense that White Feather was made for one man, his mate and a couple of guitars. Less could be more where some of Neeson’s very best work is concerned.

Image By Gordon Armstrong