Wire: Heaven, London – live review
March 24th 2013
Legendary band Wire have a new album out. It was released last week & was preceded by a show at Heaven (London) during which they played the album in full before culminating in a stage invasion by at least 24 guitarists. Louder Than War were, of course,in the audience.
Wire were my Sex Pistols. My Jesus and Mary Chain, my Nirvana, my Oasis, my Libertines, my Arctic Monkeys …they were the band that made me look at the pile of Sabbath records in the corner of the room one day and decide to sell them so I could dispose of my tennis racket and purchase a REAL GUITAR. They’d released a debut album called “Pink Flag” which had loads of short songs on and then another one equally as good called “Chairs Missing” which also had loads of short songs on it, some of these were real marvellous POP gems that didn’t get recognised by the general public because those bastards at the BBC were still up the arses of all the major record labels and peddling pop bollocks that neither you nor I can remember any more (apart from JOHN PEEL – I’ve made a short cut for that expression on my keyboard now…)
Then they released “154” , an album that everyone except for me loved. I still play it now and then and I still wonder what the fuss was all about. I also find myself picking up (front man) Colin Newman’s debut “A-Z ” which I still regard as a favourite after all these years.
Many more releases followed “154” and got played half a dozen times and are still sitting there on the shelf waiting to be picked up again to see if these ones really are as good as the first two or even the new one “Change Becomes Us”.
If WIRE were my favourite band then I’d know what all the other albums are called. I’d have known before this evening that Bruce Gilbert hasn’t been in the band “for years” and I wouldn’t have to rely on overhearing the bloke at the bar in his RESIDENTS T-shirt to gain the information about this new album being made up of re written songs from the era when my own guitar skills consisted of the into to “Practice makes perfect”. I may have even have worn my “PINK FLAG” T-shirt to the gig tonight if I was a real fan, but I’ve been sleeping in that recently…..so no, they’re not my favorite band. I don’t have a favorite band (well I do but it changes on a daily basis nowadays).
It’s all still about the intro’s with WIRE. Every one a gem. We get the new album in full this evening. In the order of which it appears on the CD. So we get the “Wire by numbers” first track “Doubles and Trebles” (if that’s the correct title) which might at first sound a bit too much like Wire have parodied themselves until you realise this may have actually been conceived thirty three years ago which excuses them from such a ridiculous statement (so i’m sorry about that, I could have just crossed that out but as this album will prove in time to come, sometimes it really is ok to just keep hanging onto what you believe in and explain yourself on another day – first impressions an’ all that).
Anyway, as soon as the final chord in this tune has faded (Small criticism ….it should have had a sudden ending chaps!) and we’re thinking that this could be an album that might just be put in the “listen too later pile” we begin to realise the longer this all goes on that there’s more and more tunes that grab you the moment each one starts. We COULD just point at and accuse this of being WIRE’s third album. It still wouldn’t alter what I still think of 154 (yeah, ok i’m not trying to cause an argument ‘ere….) but it’s good to have this in the back of your mind when listening to this.
Wire are now a five piece and there’s nothing retro about the way they sound tonight. So don’t start dismissing this band as a bunch of old fogies. Most of us in the audience, maybe….but not the band.
Oh No No No No No No ….(Mr Suit)
Tunes are intermittently interrupted by the noise of people’s jaws dropping on the floor. “Adore your Island” (if that’s what it’s called) has the power chord crashing sound of THE WHO’s “Wont get fooled again”. A couple of songs have intros that sound a bit like the “THE PASSIONS” one hit wonder “I’m in Love with a German Film Star” and everything else reminds us of WIRE. Even “Love Bends” (if that’s what it’s called), which starts off like the only song we all know by “The Gossip” & ends up sounding like one of Colin Newman’s own compositions “I’ve waited ages” (It’s definitely called that). They remind us of Wire because only Wire seem to know the right moment to get rowdy. They’ve always known not only the right time to change key in a song but the right note to keep us all interested. Most important of all, they know how long a song should be and everything this evening is short(ish), sharp and just what we all want.
“I wonder what WIRE would do?” has always been a good tool to use when writing music. I bet we’ve all done it havn’t we ?…..havn’t we ?….er..OK.
…..And beauty, they seem to do beauty in almost every song on this album…..Remember, most of us have NEVER heard this new album yet either (therefore this is why some of these titles are wrong, or non existent).
It’s good having the privilege of growing up with this band raising their heads every now and then. They’ve not insisted in having any of the similar bands from the past, take a break from their day jobs to act as a support band to get us all nostalgic (in a parallel world they’d probably be supported by an Ian Curtis lead, Joy Division and it’d probably be awful).
Wire don’t do nostalgia.
They do NEW.
And they do it well.
Even the old stuff is new.
Even if the new stuff is old.
Wire are probably as good as if not BETTER than people two thirds their age and they’re definitely better than most bands from this era And THAT is worth taking notice of if you happen to be unfamiliar with all of this.
Support act “EAST INDIA YOUTH” is basically one chap with a laptop, bass guitar and plenty of things to push press and tweak. He’s RAVETASTIC and he’s POPTASTIC and it’s exactly the kind of thing that we want to be watching as a support band for Wire. I’d like to think a large percentage of people watching this will go home and seek out more of this guys stuff. He looks so young that with the use of an abacus we can work out that if Wire were to have supported someone twice their age when they began it may have been Bill Hayley.
It’s a big crowd in here this evening. Male to Female ratio must be ten to one. Entering the venue early it’s noticeable that there are blokes standing, alone, the odd pint being held, no one staring at their ‘phone (no signal) and I’m reminded of the days back home before being gripped my the music bug of all the chaps that used to stand around like this on their council allotments. Rolled up fag in one hand (of course that’s not applicable either today), foot on the garden fork (none of those here either) just waiting for something to happen …. but it’d be cruel to suggest that WIRE are playing to the converted. There’s a good smattering of the young and eager (my mate with the name of a 70’s dance that proceeds what his mum probably calls him is here) in attendance this evening also ….something a lot of bands fail to achieve.
Those curious to what all the fuss is about WIRE can begin with “Change Becomes Us “, the new album. No need to start at the beginning (Pink Flag), anyone can and should visit that (and “Chairs missing”) sometime. This is a fab new album that we’ve all woken up to the following morning and for a band with so many brilliant tunes they could have thrown at us this evening to have decided on providing us with all new stuff just goes to show how much we should not be ignoring this band and just how important they still are.
Of course, I have to mention the encore…. a ten minute (gasp!!) version of the title track from their debut album but this time with 24 additional guitarists. Yeah TWENTY FOUR …or it might have been 25 or 23 ……and amongst these additional guitarists there were probably lots of famous people that I don’t recognise anymore, from bands we remember well (the music) but have forgotten (what the people in these bands looked like)…..but this sort of nonsense doesn’t matter, the beginning bit before all that provided the real magic.
This should have been at the Palladium ….Sunday night at the London Palladium and all those people on that stage (which current consensus of opinion has now raised to 30) could have done that “Pink Flag” song on that fuckin turntable (maybe the other Bruce just wasn’t available).
That’d ‘ave topped it
All words by Keith Goldhanger. More work by Keith on Louder Than War can be found here.