wire by stephen little-triggers Live Review

WIRE : the Engine Rooms, Southampton

Ged Babey makes three attempts to review post-punks most revered band on tour in the UK

A Wire review in rhyme

They were loud

They never spoke

Some-one shouted

“Tell Us A Joke”


They were relentless

Like a machine

Looking older

but wiser and mean


All new material

just one Harvest song

My memory’s going

Can’t remember which one.


A Wire review in quotes
(This was the first time they’d ever played Southampton as far as I am aware)

I liked the fact they didnt give a fuck and were kinda messing with the audiences heads. Some bloke was getting well stroppy cause they didnt acknowledge the crowd. It was interesting that they seem to have sonically gone back to the bands they influenced (Big Black, Swans, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine) and kind of done there own thing with it. The new guitarist was great, getting some interesting noises out of his guitar. (Matt Clark)

Dark, pretty uncompromising but still fresh. I like the fact that three 60 year old blokes aren’t playing the game. Compare it to how sad I felt seeing the Buzzcocks last year. Rather see a band still trying. (Dave Todd)

I liked what Graham Lewis said “I met a guy outside who said he had waited 35 years to see us, I thought why didn’t you get on a train we’ve played other gigs”. (Phil McCarthy)

I enjoyed WIRE mainly – although a few times I was glancing at my watch. Was very loud and a decent turnout I thought. Didn’t expect any 77-79 era songs so was surprised when they played ‘Brazil’ in the encore. (Rich Levene)

I really got into it… Was very dark powerful..exellent. Would have been nice to hear some early stuff but I have a cd collection for that (Bubba)

I thought that some of the metaphysical imagery was really particularly effective. Interesting rhythmic devices too, which seemed to counterpoint the surrealism of the underlying metaphor of …. I didn’t go. Football went to extra time. (Richard Emery)


A standard review of Wire

“Heeelllooo Southampton!  We’re Wire.  Great to be here on the sunny southcoast. Is everyone feeling alriiight?  We’ll soon change that huh-huh-huh.   This first song is a little number off of our new elpee called ‘In Manchester’ but just for you folks we’re changing it to ‘In Southampton’!  Take it away guys…”  (Massive applause and whooping)

That didn’t happen.

Although there was one guy who thought that maybe it should’ve.  He kept demanding that Wire acknowledge the audience. Which they didn’t. He failed to understand. It says Wire on the ticket, on the posters, on the t-shirts on sale at the merch stand.  Wire don’t need to introduce themselves.  They are here to exhibit their art and not be part of some light entertainment rock’n’roll circus game-show on ice.

That said, my friend Binky and I did amuse ourselves shouting “Tell Us A Joke” when it went quiet. Slightly less predictable than shouting ’12XU’. ” I do it at Swans gigs too” grinned Binky.

Wire were amazeballs. I bet they’ve never been described as that before.  Fucking loud, heavy and intense.  The almost chilled-out laid-back psych feel of some of the new (albums) songs was replaced with a tense, dark energy when translated live.

Historically, when you think about it Wire had their thunder stolen by Joy Division, then the Cure, and many others. So it is astounding that now in 2015 they still sound as uncompromising and as at-the-top-of-their-game as they do.

The set-list was pretty similar to this one from the Lexington a few days before, so taking in tracks from a Bell Is A Cup (Silk Skin Paws), Chairs Missing (A Blessed State) and Pink Flag (Brazil) but mainly the new eponymous album which really does almost match up to 154 in the Classic Wire stakes.

A full ninety minute set meant that it did go through peaks and troughs of greatness to grating-ness for those of us who aren’t full-time Wire fanatics and if I’m honest the lack of any interaction between band and audience, and anything remotely resembling dancing, or even moment, bar the occasional nodding of the head, from the throng meant it wasn’t the most joyful night out.

Sleep-Walking was one of the highlights though, with its assertion that ‘the narrowest vision often has the widest appeal’ and arguably the bands most direct political statement.

The  guitar-noise from young longhair Matthew Simms was absolutely incredible when it went off on wild but carefully-plotted tangents. I thought I imagined the others glance his way on one occasion as if to say “Steady on there, you were almost rocking-out there” as they wagged a tut-tutting finger at him.

That probably never happened either

Official Website

Wire UK tour continues
Apr 22: Rescue Rooms, Nottingham
Apr 23: The Kazimier, Liverpool
Apr 24: The Trades Club, Hebden Bridge
Apr 26: Lemon Tree, Aberdeen
Apr 27: King Tuts, Glasgow
Apr 28: Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
Apr 29: Manchester Academy 3, Manchester
Apr 30: The Fleece, Bristol


All words Ged Babey.  Photo Steve Little-Triggers – full photo-stream here.

More from Ged Babey here

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Ged Babey is 56. from Southampton, has written since 1985 for Sound Info, Due South, various fanzines and websites, contributed to Record Collector magazine and was sole author of 'Punk Throwback' fanzine -the name of which was taken from an insult hurled at him by the singer with a young band he managed for a while. Ged believes that all good music and art has a connection with punk rock.


  1. Does anyone else think that the acoustics at the Engine Rooms need some serious attention by someone who really understands these things? I could only make out two words all night – “In Manchester”. Shame as the poor sound ruined an eagerly anticipated gig.

  2. It’s a soul-less venue and at one stage so loud I thought I was going to keel over. Great to see Wire again, though – last time was 1987 in Finsbury Park.
    I wasn’t expecting the likes of Outdoor Miner / Map Ref etc. and do love their heavy use of effects pedals, but I left slightly disappointed that they didn’t play a more melodic set.

    BTW I’m a great fan of Julian Cope (Engine Rooms 30th April) and his anti-establishment stance, his one man acoustic set is hugely entertaining and he’s a brilliant raconteur, but at £25 + fees for a ticket and nasty tinned beer at £4 a pop I ‘m afraid I’m going to give it a miss.

  3. I’m agreed on the acoustics. They are terrible, which really disappoints me. Capacity-wise there isn’t anywhere similar nearby (closed similar venues in Brighton?), and it’s booked some brilliant acts recently that were too big for The Joiners or Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms, and not after a spectacle like the Guildhalls (although Southampton Guildhall’s acoustics are just the worst).

    It’s a real pity, because aside from the sound, it’s both practical and a nice looking venue. It’s just rectangle-shaped, in a good spot and I think that when lit properly, the warehouse like setting adds to its personality (it couldn’t have been much more appropriate for the nu-metal extravaganza Hoobastank/POD/AAT show… if I could hear a single word!).


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