Tuesday, June 23, 2009

First Listen: Rob Dickinson, Live and Alone

Catherine Wheel was one of those bands that should have been huge. Frontman Rob Dickinson has a fantastic voice, and one of the best falsettos in rock, and he writes swirling, melodic pop songs with bite. I like all six of their records, but I have a special fondness for Chrome and Adam and Eve.

The Wheel broke up about a decade ago, but Dickinson is still making swell music - his solo album Fresh Wine for the Horses is poppier, but still a delight. I got the chance to see Rob play a solo set at Schuba's in Chicago on Sunday, and he was terrific. Live, he plays an acoustic through a distortion pedal, so the sound is huge and intimate at once. He played loads of old Catherine Wheel songs, including rarities like "Mouthful of Air," and he included lovely versions of Peter Gabriel's "Mercy Street" and the Smiths' "Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want." Great show, and I got to meet Rob afterward, which was a treat.

And while I was there, I picked up this little live document, from 2006. The track order is similar to the show I saw, minus the covers, and the quality is pretty good. This kind of one-man reinvention is where Rob Dickinson really shines - the versions of "Oceans" and "The Storm" knock over those on Fresh Wine, and his stripped-down "Ma Solituda" is wonderful. "Black Metallic" (the first CW song I heard) goes on for a blistering six minutes or so, all screaming distortion, and encore "Future Boy" is a nice comedown.

You can only get Live and Alone at shows or on Rob's MySpace page. While you're there, listen to a few tracks. You won't be disappointed.

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