Tim Wheeler LIVE @ Rough Trade East, London

Tonight, former and future Ash frontman Tim Wheeler plays the last gig of his brief UK tour, celebrating the release of his debut solo album, although celebrating might not be the best way of describing the release. ‘Lost Domain’ tracks Wheeler’s painful journey from the first onset of his father’s Alzheimers, onto his father’s eventual demise, and through the period of mourning and readjustment at such an upheaval in life produces.

The album itself is understated and not exactly filled with the rousing sing-alongs that we’ve grown accustomed to, both from Ash and the festive collaboration with Emmy The Great that is ‘This Is Christmas’. Instead we experience a series of emotional traumas, intensely revealing flashbacks to Wheeler’s childhood, and the sort of personal, deeply personal experiences that both made him the man he is, and that (like all of us who lose a parent) made him question what his life meant, what it is worth, and how he finds a way through a life devoid of paternal comfort, reassurance and direction.
Tim Wheeler RTE  008
The live show is in a similarly understated vein and Wheeler for the first time takes to the keyboards for many of the songs, telling us that the first time he did this (only last week) he was “shitting himself” (presumably another flashback to his formative years) with nerves. This is not the sort of live experience that warrants a moshpit and perhaps recognising that changes in pace and emotion are required to keep an audience engaged, previous dates on the tour have featured a selection of Ash songs, some reworked and delivered with different emphasis.
Tonight’s surroundings (record shop ‘Rough Trade East’ just off Brick Lane in East London) are a little incongruous for a show that allows such switches in direction and pace and we get just the new songs from the debut album. However, the delivery of these allows Wheeler’s catharsis to sweep over us without inflicting pain; to expose the intense trauma that loss causes, and to see that the lessons his father instilled in him during his formative years are the reason that we have had the benefit of Ash, of Wheeler’s ‘Ivor Novello’-winning song craft, and why we have gathered here to see the further development of such an accomplished songwriter.
Wheeler reassures us that he will be back with Ash next year and it will be good to see him once again with a smile on his face, with his right arm pin-wheeling around, and with his ‘Flying V’ flying again but, for tonight, he shared more of himself with us than he ever has before and it made for a pretty moving experience.
Rating: 4 / 5
Words & Photos: Dan Aitch Check out Dan’s photo gallery from the night below: