Wire at Neumo’s, Seattle | 13 April 2011
Wire have been covered to death (note to bands: we don’t need another cover of Outdoor Miner), blatantly stolen from, lauded with praise, reinvented themselves more than once, and possibly possess the secret to the rock and roll fountain of youth. Pushing 60, what more could they possibly do at this point? Most bands at this stage, if they are ever lucky enough to reach it, would be most likely trampling over their legacy making sub-par records as some lame an excuse to tour, or just blatantly cashing on nostalgia prone fans touring without anything new to show off. Wire were always more than two standard deviations from the mean. Too arty for the punks and too standoffish for the mainstream and too cool for everyone else. Their legacy speaks for itself and they eschewed it for many years refusing to play the old stuff and hiring a cover band the Ex-Lion Tamers to open for them to do the old stuff.
Wire are still outliers, they’ve acquired a grudging comfort with their past but continue to forge ahead with uncompromising records that may not live up to their first trilogy, but they easily equal their second incarnation and at times come close to Pink Flag, Chairs Missing and 154. Still prickly about fully giving into nostalgia, Wire plucked from all points of their lengthy catalog last Wednesday night at Neumo’s. The focus was obviously on the present but they tripped us back to Pink Flag, 154, A Bell Is a Cup and the Ideal Copy. Granted we didn’t get any ‘hits’ with the exception of Kidney Bingos and Map Ref. 41 N 93 W, which I never in a million years expected to hear. Kidney Bingos was every bit as sublime as I could have expected with Bruce Gilbert’s strained vocals at the end being a highlight. It still was a pleasure to hear songs like Drill, 106 Beats That and Pink Flag.
As Colin Newman, Bruce Gilbert and Robert Grey set up their equipment, they looked like they could have been from a symphony orchestra instead of a punk rock band. Well dressed and looking professional the band looked all business. The audience didn’t look like they were there for the symphony, but there was a more seasoned air to it than most audiences at Neumo’s. Once they hit the stage, though the spring came back into everyone’s step. The set list mixed all three era’s of Wire together nicely. On record, each era has it’s distinctive sound, yet live the songs took on a more uniform fell. The new stuff fit nicely with the old and vice versa. Of the new songs, I’m partial to Gilbert’s eerie deep voice and his Please Take and Bad Worn Thing were great. Newman switched between three guitars seeming to prefer his mint green Airline the most. Drummer Robert Grey was hidden behind Newman’s amps but his precise drumming made him a presence nonetheless. They also had a second guitarist taking the mysteriously departed Bruce Gilbert’s place. He was noticeably younger but held his own and had an Air Line guitar of his own. Nary a word was uttered by the band except for a thank you, but we didn’t need it. It was elder statesman putting on a show and the music was the event. Wire knew that the older (and probably jaded crowd) didn’t need any BS interrupting a perfectly good show.