Royal Festival Hall, London, UK (February 28, 2000)
I first got into Wire around the time of Chairs Missing. I'd heard some earlier work, but in the summer of 1978 I taped the opening three tracks from a Wire Peel session—and I was hooked. I continued to enjoy Wire throghout the '80s and the Wir period, but never got to see the band live, and thought the chance had passed me by forever. So I couldn't believe it when I saw an advert for the RFH gig.
Despite some arguments to the contrary, I thought Wire stunning. The build up—films, DJ's (of sorts) and a patchy He Said set—was self-indulgent gone mad (though the film of Wire playing in 1978 was excellent), and I have to admit that for the first time I started to have doubts as to whether Wire in 2000 would still be up to it.
I needn't have worried because once the lights came back on and Wire launched into Pink Flag any such thoughts vanished. It was stunning; the band was tight, and the '80s material performed in the more straightforward style of their earlier stuff to great effect. When Wire launched into Lowdown I almost felt a sense of privilege; it just felt like a special moment in my life!
During Heartbeat the band amusingly left the stage, leaving Robert alone keeping the beat while Michael Clarke made his appearance. He did not dance that night—merely writhing and crawling. After a few minutes of this, some of the audience was getting restless, particularly as this had basically stopped Wire's set in mid-flow (though I have to say, I was loving it!) There was obviously a bit of Michael Clarke support behind me because a few voices then spouted up and one well-spoken voice was heard to say "oh do shut up". It was the most middle-class heckling I've ever experienced at a gig!
Michael departed with a wave and Wire returned for a few more tracks, completing the set with 12XU (complete with spoken intro) and then they were gone.
Incidentally, I was with two mates—one Wire fan and the other was someone who liked a lot of music from that era but had only a passing knowledge of their stuff. I thought his observation that he liked the fact that they played their old material without any sense of irony was spot on.
It was really a case of no-frills 'take it or leave it'—no pretentions (apart from some of the build up), a dash of humour and an excercise in minimalism, or at least not letting anything distract from the music. It was an interesting evening all round, and a brilliant performance from Wire... can't wait for the new stuff now.