Catherine Wheel on stage

A Band on the Way Down?

Catherine Wheel
Richard's on Richards
Vancouver, B.C.
Tuesday, September 30, 1997

Review and photography by Rodney Gitzel

"It was one of those nights I was glad I hadn't paid money..."

It was also one of those nights I had my lead written before I left. It's sad, as I quite enjoy Catherine Wheel's two previous albums (1993's Chrome -- one of the best records of that year -- and 1995's Happy Days), but this performance made me want to not hear their new CD, Adam and Eve.

The show started off all sweet noise. Feedback. Harmonica. Acoustic guitars. Slow. Feedback. Vocalist Rob Dickinson then brought out his electric guitar for a couple new songs, and proceeded to define the tone for the night: lethargy. "Geeez," I thought. "They're dead!" No energy, no edge. Are they tired? Lazy? Uninspired?

Rob Dickinson "Crank," from Chrome, would pick things up, I thought. And it did, a little, and the crowd (about two-thirds capacity) was really enthusiastic about it -- it must have been that record's hit. Still, the band spent rest of the night in a sort of folkie mood, a far cry from their Town Pump show in '95, which was hot and intense (someday I'll upload some photos from the show). Someone else noted, "It's like they want to be Radiohead." But Radiohead, at least, are compelling performers.

Frankly, I really wanted to just leave. "Heal" was painfully dragged out, as were a whole pile of (presumably) new tunes. "My Solitude" ("Ma Solituda," according to their website) -- "a song about self-absorption... selfishness... all the thing that men are good at, right girls?" said Dickinson -- was a particularly bad attempt at folk rock noise. Radiohead they aren't. And, oddly, with all this mellow stuff going on, they didn't play "Eat My Dust, You Insensitive Fuck"! (Though you could buy a t-shirt with the song title on it.)

drummer Neil Sims The set finally ended and the crowd clapped and chanted for quite awhile, like they were required to really work before they'd get to hear the hit. The band returned to the stage and broke into some spacey guitar noodling which led into Dickinson intoning "Look into the skyyyy, dadeo... ," which croon-wise sounded a lot like R.E.M.'s "Hairshirt." Yawn.

Then, finally... thankfully... the soundman cranked up the swirling lights and Catherine Wheel awoke from their sleep to play "Little Muscle." Woohoo! Finally, something approaching their previous shows. They ended with the song everyone was waiting for, "Way Down" (from Happy Days), lights flashing, bass bopping, crowd going wild. Ok, I'm almost glad I stayed...

Am I being closed-minded, unwilling to consider a new direction a band wants to take? Maybe. But I left comparing this show to that Town Pump show, and, even ignoring the songs themselves, this one was quite pale in comparison. Change direction if you like, but if it sounds bad and you play it badly, I'm not going to follow...

First published in Drop-D Magazine on November 17, 1997

Index | Search | E-mail | Info | Copyright

Considering copying some of the images from this story?
Please read this first. Thanks.