Wire – 11/09/08 – The Arches

Benzo Harris

At first I was skeptical — post-punk before punk was over? Transcending the genre in the mid ‘70s? Snobbish elitism comes to mind. Well, as I waited in line around a bunch of guys who coulda been my dad (and well well hey, the 70’s were a crazy time… who knows?) I figured that I was going to waste a few hours listening to some has-been fogeys while standing amidst a sea of fat balding dudes in expensive leather jackets. But when Wire comes on stage and starts to play…

These guys are 50-something but who cares? After all these years theymanage to keep rock alive.Like Derek Smalls, this must be their childhood preserved on stage. Colin Newman (lead guitar and vox) managed to still kick out the jams, jumping around on stage and waving his arms like a madman, an impressive feat made all the more meaningful when I notice a brace on his upper forearm.

The rest of the band is jumping around & dripping sweat harder than some hot young guns less than half their ages would. Robert Gotobed (drums) has this eerie calm look of concentration on his face as he keeps a mammoth beat while Graham Lewis (bass) is a little less animated but still takes up his fair share of the stage. Only Margaret Fiedler McGinnis, the touring rythm guitarist, seems out of place as if they picked her up at a bus stop right before the gig.

Pretty good tunes, too. Their songs have a driving buzzy sound and screechy whining vocals reminiscent of early punk (a la Buzzcocks or Sex Pistols), but with heavy reverb and a deeper bass sound that stretches them past that simply angry/shallow sound that normally makes the nut for classification as punk.

Of course, this is art punk so anything goes. While they’re known to play everything from straight-ahead punk to synth-laden dirges that helped give the goth crowd some solid footing, this night it’s just the four of them roaring through what amounts to a lot of their back catalog.

Newman manages to transition from deep & soulful crooning on “Too Late” to all of a sudden hopping around (and I mean literally!) on stage while the rest of the band keeps the beat with “Patient Flees”.

Gotobed sometimes looks like he’s dozing off to sleep because he plays with his eyes closed and he’s almost stationary- his slender but sinewy arms waving around like mechanical chicken seperators give him away though.

And that sound! The roaring echos of strings mixed with substantial whacks and thumps from the drums merge to a concert hall that’s situated under a railway station well. There is a frenzy and zeal mounting in the audience almost as soon as they start playing- you can feel the energy rippling through the crowd.

By the time the entire crowd is roaring along with Newman the chorus for “I Can’t Understand”, I can’t understand any more! Chalk it up to my lousy hearing or my getting swept away in the raucous energy of a bunch of 18 year old punks in 45 year old men’s bodies, but I can’t really hear what’s being sung any more… instead I’m bathed in wave after wave of sonic exhilaration: “I CAN’T UNDERSTAND! I CAN’T UNDERSTAND!”

That is punk, ladies and gentlemen! When the music/crowd/energy thing hits the right combination, you forget how old you are, if you left the hob on, how your stock portfolio is doing, and are instead transported back to them glory days when you hang out in shitty clubs smoking bent rollies.

And Wire does that, because they were there then and they’re here now. They have run the gauntlet, so to speak, and have survived, and came back to tell us about it. The historical implications of this are great.

At one point some old dude shouts out a request, and Newman grunts “We haven’t played that song since 1979, I’m afraid.” Yowzah! Wire has been there & done that, which enables them to play with energy & style but in a more reserved, relaxed style. I’m hearing tracks off of Pink Flag (their 1st release) as well as watching ‘em grind out songs from Object 47, which came out in ‘08.

The fans love it, too. It is both embarrassing and endearing to see a bunch of 45-year-olds actually moshing as Wire rallies for a second encore (name some young bands that can work out that hard!), playing “1 2 X U” so hard it was as if they were ripping a lit firecracker out of their ass.

I stood behind a guy in line who I pegged as a total loser… the short, chubby bald guy in a generic leather jacket. An obvious Record Junkie and Child of the Past… the person I’ll be when I’m 50 no doubt, (so might as well make fun of it while I can). Anyway, as I was leaving the gig I heard him say “I’ve been waiting to see that band for 20 years.” I guess the wait was worth it.


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