Wire at the Metro | Live review and photo gallery
Wire + Lasers and Fast and Shit at Metro
Wire, the U.K. punk band responsible for essential modern music such as "12XU," "Outdoor Miner" and "X-Lion Tamer" is the kind of band one it introduced to not on record but by a scruffy, wound-up trio of college kids covering their songs at a student union or house party. You go and buy the albums later—they're reissued at least once a decade and always make new devotees. It is the kind of band, once discovered, that one finds has been vacuumed up into one's own consciousness and changed it forever. As a musician, Wire's early albums are masterful in their economics, their smarts (Colin Newman's lyrics touch on everything from existential angst of middle class life to our alienation from distant political violence) and intensity. Bands like R.E.M. (who did "Lowdown"), Minor Threat and (more obviously) the Futureheads have covered or just plain copied Wire. The band's rhythms are as important as its guitar work and ascerbic, knowing lyricism—late in its career when drummer Robert Gotobed left the band, Wire dropped the 'e' from its name in his honor. He's back in the band under the name Grey and so is the 'e.'
Wire, like fellow-travelers Gang of Four, got more electronic and dancier in the ’80s and ’90s, and had some minor alt hits like "Silk Skin Paws." Unlike Gang of Four, all of the Wire albums are worth owning. But these days, it has gone back to the sharp, shocked—sans original guitar player Bruce Gilbert—added a young guitar player Matt Simms for tour and put singer Newman front and center on the six-string. At last weekend's Metro show, the band melded its signature sound with new material and older—but refused to play any kind of greatest hits nostalgia game. In case you were wondering, Wire just doesn't do nostalgia and there was nothing "remember the old days" about the gig. It felt quite the opposite—as if Wire's we're-smarter-than-this-society-and-smarter-than-what-you're-calling-punk attitude still applies. Gotobed and Graham Lewis's rhythms were as rigid and angular as ever—Newman's guitar playing on a stylish Supro effective enough and his voice in fine form. In what felt like a triplet of live sets rather than two encores, the band did more atmospheric numbers (psych punk without the drugs) like the droning "Comet," lean mean modernist jabs and arty but catchy numbers from its catalog ("Two People in a Room"). It also managed one of its mid-period tunes, "The Drill," a long repetitive wind-up that's oddly hummable—and a fave of true Wire heads. Nearing the end of the night, it tossed us the Krautrocky "Pink Flag," which asks again and again 'how many dead or alive?'—Newman didn't need banter to make the songs connect, they just did. It has been a good year for punk restarts settling in a groove (Gang of Four, The New York Dolls) but with Wire there's no feeling of complacency, but feeling a bit lucky that they've never unwound.