Friday, May 30, 2008

Review: WIRE at South Street Seaport in New York May 30, 2008

The first time I heard Pink Flag by the seminal art-punk group Wire was in 1980, already three years after its release. I became obsessed. I was living in Southern California then, and increasingly immersed in the punk rock music scene. I was totally enthralled with Wire, wearing out record needles on Pink Flag, and later 154, The Ideal Copy and Chairs Missing. But there is no other record like Pink Flag: This single album created the model for sound, instrumentation, rhythm and lyrical content for hundreds, if not thousands of punk bands that followed, the majority of whom were mere rote imitators, without the integral philosophy to back up the ideas they were professing.

Wire had it then, and has never lost it since its origin in 1976. This incredible band was even more incredibly chosen to play the first show of the River-to-River Live Music Festival . . . and it was free.

More than 3,000 people--half over 45--showed up to pay homage to Wire. If they were the kind of band that rested on its laurels, it would have been like going to church, or some retro-pop festival. Or, say, The Eagles--who also played tonight at Madison Square Garden. Bassist Graham Lewis noted early on, "Glad you took the time to see us, and not The Eagles. In 1977 The Eagles were one thing: The Enemy." Probably still are, considering they have no new material to speak of for 15 years--yet still play shows!

Wire, on the other hand, challenged the audience to stay focused on what was happening at the moment during its 70-minute, 17-song set (including 2 encores). The band offered a wealth of material released during its entire career, and even performed songs from the soon-to-be-released album "Object 47" ("47" representing the 47th release in the Wire discography). The line-up, in addition to Lewis, included original front man/guitarist Colin Newman, original drummer Robert Grey and Margaret Fiedler McGinnis on rhythm guitar (replacing original member Bruce Gilbert, who resigned in 2004).

The show truly covered Wire's entire career: The set featured four songs from the upcoming record including "Mekon Headman," Perspex Icon" (first live performance), "All Fours" and "One of Us" with its early Eno throb and catchy repetitive chorus 'One of us will live to rue the day we met each other"--in a perfect world, an instant hit. But also mixed in the set were four(!) songs from that incredible first release Pink Flag, which Wire has often threatened to never perform live again. The crowd went berserk for every PF tune including "Lowdown," "106 Beats That," a speed-record bursting first encore version of "12XU" and a heartfelt second encore of "Pink Flag," with the comment beforehand, "30 years ago, we played this song at CB(GB)s. It's gone now, and so are a lot of the people who were at that show. So we'd like to play this one for all our dead friends. We all have dead friends." The psychedelic crunch that ensued made me glad that Wire was not among the dead friends yet. They're still alive and kicked throughout their overtone, flanger-filled killer rockin' set.

Some people tell me "you're too old for this." Not as long as I still have the kind of burning razor-edge creative urges of Wire.

New Zealand power-pop-punksters Die!Die!Die! opened with a formidible eight-song set that paid homage to Wire with due respect, and only the merest bit of unbridled imitation.

Add 1: For incredible photos of the show, see Qro Magazine's photo gallery.

Add 2: And here's the video Qro Magazine posted to youtube of "Pink Flag," which really captures the hyper-charged energy of this final encore.

1 comment:

jaxx said...

can't believe i never heard of this band! thank you for the video, sounds like you had a fantastic time!