Gig Review: Wire

Who: Wire

Where: The Corner Hotel, Melbourne

When: 21st February 2014

Post-punk is a term that was coined by journalist Jon Savage in late 1977 following the rise of the punk movement. He described the changing musical landscape, from a mainly lyrical and aesthetic angle, that bands such as Gang Of Four, XTC, Siouxsie & The Banshees, and Wire brought to the table compared to their punk companions.

While Wire are still releasing new music, it’s only fair that their position within the hierarchy of this genre be cemented on top of the pile.

Before Wire took to the stage, the crowd were treated to short sets by local groups The Stevens and Constant Mongrel. Having seen the The Stevens play a couple of times now, their angular guitar and indie-pop ramblings didn’t seem to be received quite as well by the slightly older members in the room. Frontman Alex MacFarlane turned his back to the audience numerous times throughout their set while shredding his guitar, but when back on vocal duty, the band’s harmonising capabilities were as catchy and prevalent as always.

Next were four-piece Constant Mongrel, made up of members from a variety of local acts including Dick Diver member Al Montfort. The pounding drums, screeching guitar, and driving bass on the likes of ‘Perks & The Thrills’ and ‘Choked’ all include obvious nods to post-punk, and while the keys and sax are interesting additions to their repertoire, one gets the feeling that their set would be just as good without them.

When the lights dimmed, the members of Wire, made up of Colin Newman on guitar/vox, Graham Lewis on bass, Robert Grey on drums, and Matthew Simms on guitar, appeared from behind the curtain to a room full of a punks alongside their younger counterparts. Having released three seminal albums – Pink Flag, Chairs Missing, and 154 – in their initial few years together, many may have hoped for a decent chunk of old favourites, especially when they opened with the slow and eerie ‘Marooned’ from Chairs Missing.

Alas, just as the Wire of today are looking forward, they also refuse to rest on past glories. Grey’s speedy drum intro was striking right from the off, while Newman’s dry vocal delivery was just as evident as it is on record. The only downside is that Lewis’s bass was suffering a few technical glitches, allowing Newman and Simms to build up the tension with their discordant guitar chord changes.

Lewis and Newman shared the lead vocals during the hypnotic and fast paced ’23 Years Too Late’, with the former’s deeper execution being the perfect match to Newman’s high pitched falsetto. ‘Smash’ from Red Barked Treeon the other hand, kicked off the first real pogo session of the night.

Wire’s rather aptly titled new album Change Becomes Us  is made up of re-worked tracks from over 30 years ago, yet have only now just seen the light of day. As a result, the crowd were treated to six tracks from it, including ‘Doubles & Trebles’ with its chugging bass-lines, ‘Magic Bullet’ in which Newman laments about being “Out of my depth/Over my head”, and ‘Adore Your Island’, a definite highlight that epitomised Grey’s two-step drumming style. The remaining ‘As We Go’ and ‘Stealth Of A Stork’, both under two minutes, are the most “punk” sounding of these newer tracks, while ‘Attractive Space’ is a song that builds and builds with Newman sounding like a Darlek by the end of it!

With calls for requests coming towards the stage, the singer quite dryly stated, Requests will never be played“, which received a laugh from the crowd. However, early songs ‘Another The Letter’ (Chairs Missing) and ‘Map Ref. 14N 93W’ (154) were given an airing and received some of the loudest cheers. Loyal fans were treated to the third brand new track of the night, ‘Harpooned’ – a pulverising instrumental piece that brought Mogwai to mind.

They returned to the stage with ‘Comet’ and ‘Spent’ from Send – with the latter stretching into overindulgent, guitar pedal gimmickry and feedback, oozing with the ever present thumping beats, shredding guitars, and thunderous basslines that are associated with these godfathers of post-punk.

Set List; Marooned, Drill, 23 Years to Late, Doubles & Trebles, Blogging Like Jesus (New), Magic Bullet, Smash, Adore Your Island, As We Go Please Take, Another the Letter, Mar Ref 41N 93w, Swallow (New), Stealth of a Stork, Attractive Space, Harpooned (New)

Encore; Comet, Spent

This review was written for Tonedeaf (An Australian music site)

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