live review ~ tim wheeler ~ oh yeah centre, belfast

When the front man of Northern Ireland's loudest rock and roll band releases a self-reflective solo record, you realise the times are beginning to shift. For years Tim Wheeler has been our nations most revered raconteur of love and youthful abandon, Ash producing some of our greatest anthems. New album 'Lost Domain' carries many of the hall marks of it's authors most impressive traits; high on melody, not short on sing along quality and more of the fine guitar work which helped establish him as the indie hero of an otherwise scarred nation. Now back to play the album in full, Taylor Johnson gives his views...

What must be remembered here is that 'Lost Domain', Tim Wheeler's first solo album, will forever be associated with the tragic loss of his father which inspired it. As Wheeler's family and closest friends joined his army of fans in the Oh Yeah Centre last Friday, the emotions of this very personal homecoming were bound to impact the gig itself, and why not? Each carefully crafted song from the album was given it's chance to capture the crowd ~ and rarely did they waste their chance to do so.

The stunning 'First Sign Of Spring' and it's minimalist arrangements proved a moving snapshot into Wheeler's troubled mind, finally grasping at the first signs of light. "I still speak to you and I feel stronger...when I'm, lost I will hang on". 

'Vigil' provided a touch of the grandiose, a big, big tune. It filled the Oh Yeah Centre and really had the place rocking, the echoing cries of 'You are not alone' summing things up pretty concisely. Lyrically, Wheeler seems to have found more of himself on this album than ever before; finding a philosophical maturity brought on more by honesty than anything else. "The beauty of this life, everything you've known, in time we have to let them go..."

An encore of classics 'Goldfinger' and 'Oh Yeah' were never in danger of  producing anything less than the rapture of an Ash gig. (Members of Wheeler's road crew would later comment that 'Oh Yeah' was a late addition to the set ~ "You can't not play that Tim, this place is named after the bloody song!") though it was his old bands swan song which proved the highlight. Voted one of our nations greatest ever anthems (and singled out by Noel Gallagher as one of his favorite songs), 'Shining Light's piano led delicacy perfectly summarized the feelings of the night. It was an intimate performance, for an emotional occasion and a genuine pleasure to witness. The superb Tony Wright joining Wheeler on stage only heightened the feelings that you were witnessing something rather special indeed.

A proud night for Belfast.
Taylor Johnson

For fans of: Duke Special, Stephen Fretwell, Foy Vance

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