One measure of whether it’s worth turning up for old gits with guitars is the strength of their support. If you’re in the mood for a crap karaoke singalong then choose a weak support act. Set the bar low. San Fran’s Parts and Labor are very definitely NOT that band, so it grieves me to say I dillied and I dallied and I showed up too late (or maybe left too early) to catch their set – a standard of journalistic excellence for which Dorf can be relied upon. So, for me at least, the evening was very much a game of one half.
Wire, sans Bruce Gilchrist who has retired to spend more time with his bees, hit the stage and silenced the audience as Graham Lewis told us, “We are Wire. This is our time.” A shut up and listen smack that demanded the attention of the packed club.
They are not here to play love songs, hits or requests. Not here to indulge the cosy familiarity past glories. Instead they are super-motoric, unfamiliar, a sub- Hawkwind snarl, a jagged riff that ends in skank and rubble, raising a finger to Chuck Berry. Minimal but aggressive, drunk on repetition, taut and future proof. Most of their set is from 2008’s Object 47 but there are some numbers from Send. A fat man in the audience balanced his beer and wobbling in time, heckled the band with an unlikely, “German Shepherd”. Lewis, the pricklier of this prickly bunch responded, “We’ll certainly be writing that one down.”
Colin Newman, a connoisseur of exotic and beautiful guitars, is sporting something blue, perhaps an Eastwood – but it was hard to see from the mixing desk. It doesn’t matter, just a little rock ‘n roll fetish from this otherwise most uncompromising of minimalists.
The band are on snarling form. Robert Grey, a perfect machine holding the rumble and slash together. Lewis lunging, antagonising the crowd. Each song a deconstruction ……Newman slashing out chords, “and the chorus goes, and the chorus goes, and the chorus goes – BANG!”
The audience was still shouting requests, pleas for Outdoor Miner were met with, “You’ll be lucky” from Newman and “Go bury yourself” from Lewis.
Returning to the stage for an encore, Lewis wafted away a ‘magical’ pall of dry ice and told the audience. “You have been so generous. We’d like to play something you have never heard before.” Shrugging away the puppy-dog disappointment of the crowd he muttered to Newman, “That never sells.”
The unfamiliar encore was tough and lithe enough to silence any dissent but the crowd got their final fix of nostalgia with a fantastic version of Lowdown and a feral rendition of 12xu, a little tickle to compliment the slap of band that has always refused to live in the past.
An interview with Colin Newman and Graham Lewis follows shortly, keep tuned.
Wire, performing ‘Lowdown’ in NYC on 5.30.08