By Anne-Marie Ferguson, Contributor
It is rather fitting that a solo gig by Ash frontman Tim Wheeler, takes the opening act slot of the Sound of Belfast this year. The event celebrates the cities music scene from which Wheeler can never really retreat from. Tonight’s gig will kick off a week long run of live performances and music based workshops. Even more fitting is tonight’s venue; Wheeler and his band have been champions of the Oh Yeah Centre and everything it represents since the centre opened back in 2007.
The gig proves to be an intimate one, a rather grown up affair. The audience is a mixture of friends, family and fans, each individual there to listen live to some new songs from Wheeler’s debut solo album, Lost Domain. It has been well documented that this album has been inspired by the loss of Wheeler’s father giving many of the songs a self-reflective feel with an edge of maturity.
Fans expecting the mainly guitar based sounds of Ash, were instead greeted with songs like the breathtaking “First Sign of Spring”. Instead, the keyboard played a more prominent role in songs like “Do You Ever Think of Me”, with its sophisticated sounds. Many other artists would have been tempted to throw in their early songs. Particularly when your early songs are catchy hits like 1995’s, “Girl From Mars”. However, Wheeler chooses to let his new material speak for itself. It isn’t until the end of the night that the local-legend in his own right indulges the crowd in some old favourites including “Shining Light”, “Goldfinger” and the rather apt “Oh Yeah!” from which tonight’s venue takes its name.
The night is best described as an emotion filled homecoming which has showcased Wheeler’s new maturity as an artist and writer. It has been a night that leads to questions about the future of Ash, but after sharing in this emotive evening, I for one want more of Tim Wheeler the solo artist before anything else.