Wire | The Dome in Tuffnell Park | 2 December 2015
Forty years into their career a band should be running on fumes, rehashing memories of past glories. But Wire were never ones to stick to the script.
So their excellent self-titled 14th album broods with all the intensity of a moody teenager. And, instead of the sad, nostalgia-fuelled sets favoured by their contemporaries, they perform most of it tonight.
A wall of feedback announces the arrival of ‘Blogging’, their wry social media commentary which, like the rest of the songs they play off ‘Wire’, sounds even more engaging, relentless, and powerful than it does on record. The once aloof ‘Burning Bridges’ is now darkly seductive, a tumbling ‘Joust & Jostle’ lives up to its name, and the shimmering ‘High’ and ‘In Manchester’ hide huge pop hooks behind throbbing basslines, jangling guitars, and despairing vocals.
The slow march of ‘Sleep Walking’ – punctuated by sudden, violent guitar outbursts – is the perfect soundtrack to vocalist Colin Newman’s stark sociopolitical warnings like “The narrowest vision often has the widest appeal”.
The aggressive ‘Split Your Ends’ and anguish of ‘Octopus’ showcase the punchy, no-nonsense rhythm section of bassist Graham Lewis and drummer Robert Grey, ‘Swallow’ embraces an intimacy only hinted at on ‘Wire’, and the colossal ‘Harpooned’, an unstoppable tidal wave of drugged-out noise and distortion, threatens to raze the Tuffnell Dome.
So too does the encore. A quick tear through ‘Brazil’ is one of the few concessions to the aging punks in the audience. The quiet-loud dynamics of 2013’s ‘Adore Your Island’ are pushed to breaking point. And, like the dreamlike trance of ‘Boiling Boy’ and hypnotic ‘Silk Skin Paws’ earlier in the set, 1978’s maudlin masterpiece ‘Used To’ benefits from being stripped back to just guitar, drums, and bass. Musically restrained but emotionally unbridled, it’s almost as devastating as ‘Harpooned’.