By JOHN BENSON
Special to The Gazette
When looking back at the list of bands that have supported AC/DC over the years, two things stand out: most are semi-obscure groups and most fail to experience any sort of longevity.
From The Poor in the mid-â€™90s to Slashâ€™s Snakepit at the turn of the century, getting the high profile opening slot for the â€œBack in Blackâ€ band could be construed as, well, a kiss of death.
One group willing not only to take the risk but that is confident it will change that pattern is Irish hard rock act The Answer, which opens for AC/DC Jan. 5 at Quicken Loans Arena. Over the past few years, The Answer has, well, um, proven to be the answer for classic rock fans looking to bang their head to something new yet familiar.
While the groupâ€™s 2006 debut, â€œRise,â€ didnâ€™t receive a stateside release, thus making the band unknown on this side of the Atlantic, the hard rocking quartet has ruled Europe the past few years, including opening gigs with The Rolling Stones, The Who, Aerosmith and Whitesnake. So with that in mind, why not open for AC/DC?
â€œYeah, the only band we didnâ€™t get to open for would be Van Halen, but I think itâ€™s gotten to the stage now where we donâ€™t want to be the opening band anymore,â€ said The Answer guitarist Paul Mahon, calling from El Paso, Texas. â€œAnd now with AC/DC, itâ€™s the perfect opportunity for us to introduce rock fans to the band. So itâ€™s a nice fit for us, but we donâ€™t want to have that albatross around our necks forever.
â€œI think after this AC/DC tour, itâ€™s time for us to step it up. A lot of bands have gotten to this point before, a lot of great bands, and theyâ€™ve kind of disappeared into obscurity. I guess the next challenge for us is to take the leap from being an opening band and being one of those idols ourselves.â€
The groundwork to such a leap begins Feb. 17 when The Answer releases its sophomore album â€œEveryday Demonsâ€ in both the U.K. and the States. New songs currently in the bandâ€™s set list include the ZZ Top-esque â€œDemonize,â€ the rocking â€œOn and Onâ€ and the mid-tempo â€œTonight.â€ Mahon describes the latter track as a mix of Bruce Springsteen, Thin Lizzy and AC/DC.
Considering the band has already been somewhat pigeonholed into a classic rock vibe, the same scene that eagerly swallowed up and quickly spit out recent trendy rock acts Jet and Wolfmother, Mahon said the group was judicious when recording â€œEveryday Demons.â€
â€œOver the past few years Iâ€™ve just taken in different influences from different parts of the world we went to,â€ Mahon said. â€œAnd I guess the songwriting has improved a lot. While itâ€™s still blues-based, itâ€™s not purely blues as the first record was. I think itâ€™s starting to sound more like The Answer as the band, rather than people saying we sounded like (Led) Zeppelin or Free or anyone else.
â€œWe wanted to grow musically, but still weâ€™re not at that point where we can get too progressive yet. We still have to make it work in a three- or four-minute timeframe.â€
In concert that timeframe is expanded to less than an hour, which is all Mahon and company are hoping it takes to convert a few AC/DC followers into becoming fans of The Answer.
â€œYou gotta get there early, because if you like rock â€˜nâ€™ roll, weâ€™re going to bring it hard and fast and throw a bit of soul in there,â€ Mahon said. â€œAnd youâ€™ll get excited in seeing us just like you did the first time you saw AC/DC. If you give us a chance, weâ€™ll win you over.â€
Who: The Answer opening for AC/DC
When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 5
Where: Quicken Loans Arena, One Center Court, Cleveland
Tickets: $91.50 at all Ticketmaster outlets
Info: www.ticketmaster.com or 330-945-9400
Benson may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.