Triptych Festival, Lemon Tree, Aberdeen, UK (April 29, 2004)
On a typically damp and dreary night in the Granite City, Wire's pulsating performance was greeted with painful indifference from the chin-stroking zombies who turned up to watch them rip through most of Send and Read and Burn. Only as Colin Newman and co. trooped off before the first of two cracking encores did the crowd snap out of their state of paralysis—bemused bassist Graham Lewis wondering aloud what had taken them so long. The crafters of Pink Flag and Chairs Missing deserved a more appreciative audience than this.
Over the course of the evening, Mute stablemates The Liars, Pansonic and Pink Grease all played stirling sets—but it was the ageing art-rockers who thrilled. Barely a note was played from their peerless '70s back catalogue all night, but it hardly mattered: both Wire sets were heart-stoppingly exciting affairs. Their menacing new material bristled with an intensity and spirit that had me turning round to friends in stunned delight.
But for the stooped, almost motionless figure of guitarist Bruce Gilbert, you would have been forgiven for assuming this was a band at the start, rather than the (admittedly spectacular) tail end, of their career. In the Art of Stopping, Being Watched and Comet all had me hopping around like a deranged gibbon. The imposing stage figure of Graham Lewis, decked out all in black, snarled his way through backing vocal duties, while the bespectacled Newman pulled off some vituoso one-handed guitar playing amidst a surprisingly energetic display of punk posturing.
Unbelievably, Wire sound more exciting and fresh now than in their critical heyday of the late '70s. Shame no-one told the knuckle-draggers of the North-East.