Punk legends Wire played live at Mono in Falmouth with support from the Red Cords
Review by Lee Trewhela
THE last time I saw the celebrated post-punk art-rockers, they played a wondrous set of pointillistic guitar pop at Exeter’s Phoenix. Proving that some ageing acts can still surprise, four years on and Wire are a different band.
Playing the biggest gig yet at Cornwall’s glorious new music venue, the band mesmerised a capacity crowd with pulverising, hypnotic, beautiful noise. Beforehand, the place was abuzz with fans of all ages wondering if they’d play the “hits” – 12XU, Outdoor Miner, I Am The Fly, Ex Lion Tamer.
Being obtuse types, it was never going to happen but we did get the likes of Brazil, Used To and Blessed State from one of the most original, and influential, triptych of albums in rock history – Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154.
And for those who adored their more electronic period in the ’80s there was Boiling Boy and Silk Skin Paws but now reinvented as relentless and guitar-heavy.
Looking back isn’t Wire’s game and unlike other bands born in the 1970s they are still releasing vital records, so watching a gig where all but one of the songs from their latest album are aired isn’t a problem.
Red Barked Tree, Change Becomes Us and this year’s self-titled album are the equal of that original threesome and live, especially, remind us how they influenced a generation of other uncompromising acts.
There were moments at Friday’s gig that rivalled the rhythmic firepower of Fugazi (it’s all about the rhythm with Wire and in Robert Grey they have one of the punk era’s greatest drummers) and the primal guitar wizardry of everyone from Sonic Youth to My Bloody Valentine. Essentially, all children of Wire.
All the glorious noise (mostly from Matt Simms’ ingenious reimagining of the guitar) is offset by Colin Newman’s plaintive vocals, Graham Lewis’ brooding yet danceable bass and the fact that even drenched in volume Wire can’t help but write a tune – witness the eardrum buzz of this year’s In Manchester and gig opener, Blogging.
It all came to a head with main set closer Harpooned – a behemoth of despondence, which grew and grew into a miasma of sound. It was literally chest-quaking – what a fool I was to stand next to the speaker. The sheer physicality of it was literally stunning.
Hats off to local support The Red Cords, who held their own with their Ramones-like bang-bang-bang. They came to the rescue too when Lewis broke a string and Wire kidnapped a Red Cords bass guitar. They’ll dine out on that one ….
Hopefully it won’t be another 37 years before Wire grace Cornwall with their presence again.