Manchester Academy 3
It’s no good shouting “Do Some Old” at a Wire gig . In spite of their ‘heritage’ status Wire have always refused to be a nostalgia act. It would be easy, and far more lucrative, for them to do what their peers like New Order, The Cure, Buzzcocks and so forth do, and play sets that lean heavily on their glory days or play classic albums in full…but Wire have never liked looking back. Even back in the 1970s they would promote their latest album by showcasing the songs that would make up the next one.
They’ve got a new, eponymous, LP out and true to form they pretty much play every track from it. Fortunately, Wire have been at this long enough that most people know what to expect and nobody is shouting for 12XU or I Am The Fly. It helps that the new LP is marvellous. The record showcases, on the whole, the more dreamy, poppy side of Wire but live these songs get amped up to another level. The sound is very loud and powerful but also crystal clear so even if the material isn’t familiar it is delivered with maximum impact. ‘Octopus’ is a highlight that could easily replace any track on their first 3 LPs, and songs like ‘In Manchester’ and ‘Joust & Jostle’ are great examples of Wire’s skewed but naggingly catchy take on guitar pop. When old songs do come, they’re nice surprises. Silk Skin Paws from ‘A Bell is A Cup’ is dropped in early on – a hit that never was, Graham Lewis takes the lead for a spine-tingling ‘Blessed State’ (from 154) and for the encore the very seldom played ‘Used To’ (from Chairs Missing) is a suitably moody end. I’ve seen a lot of Wire gigs and this wass one of the best. The band are on superb form, new-ish member Matt (not born when Wire were in their first phase) looks right at home with the old boys providing layers of FX-pedal driven texture and Robert Grey on drums is the absolute heart of Wire…I find myself watching him more than anyone else, he cues in every song..eyes tightly shut, completely locked in and not a cymbal splash or tom roll out of place…it’s Rob’s gig really.
A near capacity crowd, mixture of seasoned Wire fans, local musicians like John Robb, Lonelady and a Dutch Uncle or two, and lots of quite young people which suggests Wire’s forward momentum is paying off.
It made me think..
The refusal to rely on ‘oldies’ works. The new record, and the gig sounds like a new band…a really good one. It’s a brave move, and it takes enormous confidence in your new music to pull it off but for Wire there really is no alternative. There is a moment during the monumental ‘Harpooned’ where the volume reaches My Bloody Valentine/Swans levels and Colin’s vocals soar over the top and the whole room seems locked into Wire world – you are left in no doubt that ‘they mean it maaaan’.1