Wire: King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow – live review

Wire

Wire

King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow

Monday 27 April 2015

Long time Wire fan Mark Fleming reviews the band’s recent show at the legendary King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in Glasgow, one of the last dates in the tour plugging their new album which John gave 9 / 10 in his review

I bought my first Wire record, their debut album ‘Pink Flag’, when I was 16. I’m 53 this year, and have just bought their 14th studio album, ‘Wire’. Longevity does not always guarantee any band remains inspiring, but Wire have always gone against the grain, continually reinventing themselves and challenging audience preconceptions.

Wire came to prominence during the original wave of punk bands, but even then they were gloriously insular. Fans and critics will always argue about the extent to which their output from the 1980s onwards has come close to emulating the heady heights of their first three albums, ‘Pink Flag’, ‘Chairs Missing’ and ‘154’, a magnificent body of work that distilled punk’s energy into a unique sound signposting a world light years beyond three-chord thrash. But they have been consistently interesting and arresting, and their most recent releases have been amongst their most satisfying listens.

On Monday night they played in King Tut’s in Glasgow. Support came from PINS, an all-female band who played a tight set of excellent songs, balancing melody with furious riffs, with shades of garage rock and the new psychedelia of the likes of Toy.

Wire seemed to take an age to set up, members drifting on and off the stage to tune-up and adjust the sprawling pedalboards, while discordancy bellowed from the PA. Eventually they kicked off with ‘Blogging’, track one on their eponymous new album. A great warm-up, its mid-tempo rhythm, crafted by superbly metronomic drummer Robert Gotobed, is sliced up by guitarist Matthew Simm’s stabbing tremolo chords, while Colin Newman playfully juxtaposes modern technological obsessions with Biblical imagery. As the gig unfolded, Wire focused on ‘Wire’, interspersed with random excerpts from various stages of their career.

Typically, interaction with the rapt audience rarely strayed beyond a nodded acknowledgement of their thunderous applause. But they are a band of such singular self-belief that it has always been about the music. And what fabulous music it always is.

As is the norm, they played extensively from their freshest batch of songs, including ‘Swallow’, ‘Split Your Ends’, ‘Burning Bridges’, ‘Shifting’, and ‘In Manchester’. ‘Octopus’, vaguely reminiscent of The Cure on the album version, is much rawer and edgier on stage. Sleep-Walking also benefits from the live setting, its ponderous pace building in momentum as Newman captures the spirit of the political climate: “The narrowest vision often has the widest appeal. A lack of decision leaves us open for a steal.” This track is the perfect showcase for Simms to display his versatility with the sound affects that continue adding potent layers to the songs. Since collaborating on 2011’s ‘Red Barked Trees’, he has joined Wire’s ranks, his sonic alchemy amply filling the creative gap caused by original guitarist Bruce Gilbert’s departure after ‘Send’. It’s interesting to note that Gilbert’s decision seemed at least partially based on his disillusionment with playing guitar: from the get-go he hated the concept of Wire being in any way a ‘rock n’ roll band’. Simms’ unconventional style, conjuring mesmerising noise from his array of pedals certainly carries on that spirit of subverting rock clichés.

‘Harpooned’ was not so much a wall of noise as an ear-shredding tsunami, with Newman encapsulating the paranoia of the times: “I’m worried I’m worried, I’m frightened as hell, I heard voices echo, way down in my shell”.

There were issues with the sound balance, and when the band were in full pelt, there was so much lower-end the PA threatened to collapse under the strain. As certain points Graham Lewis’s bass was so thunderous it sounded as if one of Glasgow’s underground trains was about to crash through the walls. But when the proper mix was achieved, it was like a beautiful sunlight cleaving storm clouds. ‘Blessed State’, a rare outing for a ‘154’ track, created a perfect counter-balance for the dense shoegazing, its floating melodies underpinned by Lewis’s vocal delivery. The bassist also sang ‘Mekon Headman’, from 2008’s ‘Object 47’.

‘Change Becomes Us’ formed the backbone of Wire’s last appearance here in 2013, and while they have, inevitably, moved on from those tunes, they did blast through ‘Stealth of a Stork’, their spritely re-working of ‘Witness to the Fact’ from ‘Document & Eyewitness 1979 / 1980.’ Another highlight was that album’s ‘Adore Your Island.’

The encore took the fans all the way back to ‘Brazil’ from ‘Pink Flag’, and concluded with ‘Used To’, from ‘Chairs Missing’.

The sound wasn’t perfect, but it seems churlish to dwell on that issue. Those final tracks hark back to the period when Wire springboarded from punk into a whole new sonic universe.  ‘Wire’, the release they are currently touring to promote, indicates that they are still relishing their mission to explore that universe.

~

For more info about Wire go here: pinkflag.com. They’re also on Facebook and tweet as @wirehq.

All words by Mark Fleming. More work by Mark on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.

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10 comments on “Wire: King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow – live review”

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  1. Guys, I love your site, but you really need to get a grip of your Glasgow reviewers. This is the third review I’ve seen of a gig which I attended in the past couple of months. None of the reviews remotely reflected the gigs I saw. At least with this one I could believe the guy was actually there, although he wrote a standard teenage fanboy piece, completely ignoring any of the few negative aspects of the evening; the other two I saw recently were obviously written by mates of the band.

    I’m not a reviewer, so I’m not looking for the guy’s job, but I think you are being taken advantage of, possibly as Glasgow is so “out of the way” that “reviewers” don’t think anyone else will have beeen to the gigs they review.

    Unfortunately, poor reviews like this mean readers can’t really trust the rest of the site, which is unfortunate, as there is quite a lot of decent writing to be found throughout the site. Please, sort it out.

    • Stuart. Please accept my apologies on behalf of LTW. We attempt to ensure all reviews reflect your own opinion 100% with your usual unhealthy dose of cynicism and pedantic bile.

      You have used ‘teenage fanboy’ in three of your series of Comments now to criticise and insult three of our writers. Please attempt to think of a new turn of phrase.

      You seem to have a weird kind of vendetta against music writers from what I assume is your home city. Please tell us why. Were you in a band which got negative reviews?

      To sum up. This is not a poor review. Some music writers have acquaintances in bands, this is not ‘bias’ its an active fan/musician relationship. Don’t you think NME writers drank and socialised with bands. Its normal.

      I’m glad you think there is some decent writing on the site, but please get over yourself. And have a read of this – a Southampton writer who’s never set foot in Scotland reviewing a Glasgow band http://louderthanwar.com/fram-against-nature-album-review-glasgows-best-kept-secret

      • Disappointed by your flippant and frankly rather insulting response. I wouldn’t be posting about teenage fanboyism if your reviewers didn’t display it so openly. I am not a competing reviewer, neither have I ever been a member of a band. I have no ulterior motives.

        The recent Wire gig at King Tut’s was one-paced and unimaginative. There were some good moments, but by the standards the band have set themselves, this was not one of their finer nights. The audience response to the band was pretty muted, again by Wire’s own standards, and certainly never approached “thunderous” as your reviewer stated.

        In common with the other reviews on which I have commented, this review bears little semblance to the gig which took place. THAT’S what the problem is – not the standard of the writing, or the reviewer’s relationship with the band. The problem is with the lack of accuracy and objectivity displayed by your reviewers in these cases.

        I don’t for a minute want to suggest that my opinion is any more valid than anyone else’s when it comes to subjective issues, such as whether some music or band is “good” or not. I use sites such as yours to broaden my knowledge; I’m happy to come across artists unfamiliar to me, and I would like to think I could trust the content of your articles.

        Maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe that’s not the aim of your site, but I had rather hoped that it was.

        • The sites aims or manifesto is here … http://louderthanwar.com/about-us/

          I refer you to point 12.
          Words are my weapons
          The writing will be informative but also emotional. I want people who are immersed in culture and want to fire you up with their love of it.

          Nothing there about boring old ‘objectivity’.

          I am sorry if you feel insulted. We welcome feedback but all of your posts have been like the same old letter to the ‘boss’ saying ‘sort out these slackers’.

          LTW doesn’t work like that. John Robb is the boss in that he pays for the site. Us volunteer, unpaid writers are given complete artistic freedom to write what and how we like – in line with his ‘manifesto’.

          There are some brilliant writers and some who are less experienced and maybe not so great, but they are always passionate about the music. The Scots writers you have targeted are without exception great writers and do not warrant the criticism you have levelled at them.

          We don’t want a ‘flame-war’ with you and we do appreciate everyone who reads LTW and welcome feedback.

          Sorry for the long and boring reply. Better than the initial draft of ‘fuck off mate’ I’m sure you agree.

          • I guess we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Just a pity you had to sour matters with your petulant, juvenile last line. I really don’t think that was warranted.

  2. Gus Ironside

    Stuart…I’ve got to hold my hand up, you’ve got us bang to rights, ‘ We don’t actually attend gigs that we review, we sit and home and ‘imagineer’ them. This is all made possible through a lucrative payola system of Tunnock’s caramel logs and ‘lucky tatties’.
    As a form of penance, I shall demand that the Reviews Editor must donate all our earnings from the last two months of live reviews to a charity of your choice. Furthermore, next time the Glasgow LTW writers hold one of our secret planning meetings to defraud LTW, we’ll invite you along to provide moral guidance.
    Thanks again!

  3. Billy the whizz

    Stuart, Your comment did succeed in one way -it made me re-read the review and i still don’t see what is wrong with it. Maybe it is is you who has a problem?

  4. You are right Stuart it was unwarranted. I apologise. All I was doing was defending LTW’s writers. We are proud of our work and proud to be a part of the site and share our thoughts on music we love.

    Your constant criticism, to us, is unwarranted as you don’t address the writer concerned in each case ” Hey, Gus, that was bollocks mate….” but ‘the management’ ( of whom I’m not one, but I am a “Staff Writer” – meaning a regular writer). If you want to have a say, please do so but in a more informal, friendly, jokey way perhaps.

    Also as a ‘punk-derived’ website I would have hoped a casual f-word would have been shrugged off a ‘punk humour’ rather than souring the exchange.

    Anyway – apologies to Mark Fleming who’s review we have tarnished with all this rubbish – as you may have gathered Mark, Stuart is a regular correspondent.

  5. PINS sound nothing like Toy. Their songs are about a third the length, for one thing. Oh, and they have actual melodies.

  6. Excellent review, Mark- good work!

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