Wire @ Newhampton Arts Centre, Wolverhampton, 31 October, 2017

What I love most about Wire is their unconventionality and their unpredictability.  While other bands from the post-punk era are happy to ride the nostalgia train, regurgitating their past glories, Wire just keep on doing their own thing; producing new and better music and doing it on their own terms.  Maybe they can do this due to a lack of any bona fide hits, so they never have to cater to a fickle pop audience.  It is clear from tonight’s audience they are neither pop nor fickle.  It is said that the few who originally bought the Velvet Underground’s debut album in 1967, all went on to form bands, and the same is probably true for Wire (the crowd looks full of musicians).  Wire’s influence is wider than their success would suggest.  For the loyal fan this is a blessing as it means they can enjoy Wire in the wonderful intimate setting of the Newhampton Arts Centre.

There is no support and Wire walk on stage to an unwarmed up audience, with just a dimming of the lights.  Notorious for not giving the fans what they want, it is a great joy that the show kicks off with a thundering version of ‘Ahead’.  Graham Lewis’ bass cuts through the room like a buzz saw, with Robert’s sparse and robotic drum patterns giving masses of room in the mix.  Colin and Matthew’s guitars move from jerky and rhythmic, to flooded with feedback, but always remain checked to allow the softly spoken vocals space.

The set features tracks from almost all of their albums, but the lion’s share is from this year’s ‘Silver/Lead’  ‘Three Girl Rhumba’ lifts the crowd with its increased tempo and a quick nod to the past, but for the most part, the audience stand in respectful awe of one of the most inventive post-punk bands this country produced.

The highlight for me closes the main set, ‘Over Theirs’.  The wall of noise and feedback at the end, created by Colin and Matthew, is as astounding as it is complex.  It is not just a guitar feeding back, there are all sorts of delays and reverbs and filters altering the sound as it swirls around the hall.  Wire really understand the beauty in sound and allow time for it to impact on their audience.  When the amps fall silent, the room erupts as if woken from hypnosis.

Wire has always been incredibly sensitive to producing music that is not self-indulgent.  Their early albums featuring impossibly short songs, so much so that the record company asked them to rerecord ‘Outdoor Miner’ and make it longer so they could release it as a single.  Although they utilise found sounds and noise within their songwriting it is always with a musical ear.  This sensitivity and artistry still flows through their work and performances now, and I am fortunate to have been able to see them live.  If you are a fan of post-punk or new wave, then their albums are essential listening, and catching them live is a must.


Reviewer: Alan Neilson

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