Review by Tom Frodsham
Remember the band Ash? If your answer is no, then let me fill you in. From Northern Ireland, Ash hit the mainstream around the time of Brit Pop’s peak and released their critically acclaimed breakthrough album ‘1977’ – an album still regarded as one of the best of the entire decade. Lead singer Tim Wheeler has since broke away from the group and done the decent thing and released a studio album of his very own.
The album, ‘Lost Domain’ only came out last week so Tim’s doing the rounds promoting his fresh out-of-the-oven solo material. On Wednesday night he appeared at The Deaf Institute for a perfectly suited intimate gig to show off his new work. When testing the waters with new tracks, Deaf is the ideal place to present it to – a small, appreciative crowd where you get an honest response.
Opening with a Pink Floyd-esque instrumental medley, Wheeler played new tracks on guitar and keyboard, but it wasn’t until he hit ‘Do You Ever Think Of Me?’ that the crowd warmed up to the music. It’s a powerful, instantly catchy track that has lead single written all over it. Wheeler pointed out that lead guitarist Russell was too unwell to perform for the night, so tour manager Brett took over for the night. Not too much pressure then? Big respect for Brett, he frantically learned the tracks throughout the day ready for the gig and pulled it off without a glitch (later on he got a massive applause from the crowd).
One or two tracks were a bit of a snooze, but Tim always brought it back with his knack for catchy melodies. His material reminded me of a typical Kinks album from the late 1960’s – acoustic guitar led tracks but with a punch. What he describes as the main track of the album, ‘Medicine’ was a lengthy 7 Minute track, a rollercoaster of tempo’s and lyrics – think Bohemian Rhapsody but without the Opera singing. It was interesting how he used a series of instrumental interludes to break up the set, bringing back the focus entirely on the music.
After another memorable track, the keyboard led ‘Vigil’, Wheeler returned for the encore with ‘Shining Light’ probably Ash’s most successful single. Oh how it took me back to 2001, buying that cassette single in Woolworths (perhaps that shows my age). The track later got the Annie Lennox treatment and is actually a decent cover version. Unfortunately that was the only Ash song that snuck into the set list of the night, as Tim finished with the aptly titled ‘One Last Song’. A track that was left off the album at the last minute for being ‘too happy’; it was a perfect ending to the night as the uplifting track showed off Tim’s still strong vocals and gift for live performance.