The Garage, London (May 26-28, 2000)
3GarageWIREnding (The Final Retrospective Exhibition)
Friday started with some crap tunes courtesy of Cylob. Took to doubtful wondering whether Wire were deliberately having cheesy muzak blasted to brighten their metallic chrome sheen. Problems for the Gilbert initially: a blue guitar plugged in the wrong way! Took Paul Smith, Mitch (Blast First roadie/tour manager and Big Bottom basser) and Bruce about a quarter to put the plugs in the right holes whilst Colin in tacky looking 'Bastard' T-shirt glanced over a bit bemused. Edvard GL played along to a loop quietly Domeish.
So, not quite the dynamic entrance of the RFH—had enough to get a beer and chuck a bit down throat before Pink Flag eventually surged up the river even sleeker and desolate than before. Colin seemed to have melodicised his guitar part so much since The Third Day practise that it sounded like something from the Mute, but not cute.
Conversely Silk Skin Paws and Boiling Boy moved in the opposite direction, toughened up with a special noise wrench skrunch from the Gilbert guitar in the latter part of the hat locking. 'Twas wonderful to see them all close up, especially the rosetted Mr. Lewis whose stage moves and facial expressions seem to embody all the changing moods of the songs. The man could've been a dancer in a slightly shifted universe. Maybe the same is true of Robert, at least his muscular physique might suggest it. The Wire heartbeat has a meditative presence, eyes shut in ecstatic concentration, lost in the beautiful perfection of his clipped hi-hat. Bruce is the Bing to Graham's Bang, studying the guitar with the dignity of a premier noise professor. Joy on Colin's face as he Boiled the Boy—looks like he's having it big, fun all the way from the Flag to the Drill avoiding the (now boring) Serious Snakes. Have it from the mouth of Lewis that it is most definitely 'Make Furniture' Colin incredulous anyone would think he was making 'Fun at yer!' It was Joseph who was a carpenter and Jesus who got nailed to the furniture, if he even existed.
Advantage in Height was an awesome onslaught of swinging white, and 40 Versions seemed to expand to embody 400 Versions, a real shape shifter. Mercy was a total eclipse and Another The Letter was a pocket of pure intensity... oddly Mr Lewis' bass intro had me in mind of Love Will Tear Us Apart for a split—"Don't you compare me to Hook!" he roared in Sunday interview. But it was one of those personal impressions and seemed appropriate to the song's suicide subject what with the tragic Curtis legacy. The Letter was inspired by an etching viewed through the eyes of the Gilbert.
Caught some lyrics for new song He Knows which is now stronger and punchier and turning out to be a bit of a classic already. "Riding shotgun, acting hard... he knows what you're thinking... we're hypnotised by all your love." A possible subtle thank you to the fans? Also seems like an updating of A Part of Our History and the original Lorries/I Want To Go but vastly superior as is to be expected from Wire.
Precise body of set ran Pink Silk Boiling Low Knows Advantage Letter Mercy.
Requests for Eels Sang Lino and Ex Lion Tamer were ignored. Wire doesn't do requests! Nevertheless 'Eels Sang Lino' is a great phrase to shout for any reason!
Welcome Welcome Amoeda Amoeba!
Surprises at encore time—along came Mannequin as foreshadowed by 5000 postcards. In between was no waste space sped up and rounded off edges. A bit sloppy but a great adrenaline rush of recognition and the only nostalgic moment for me. No Ahead but Go Ahead they did, with Bruce bassing and Graham at the back with SK1 to seek and let his sounds curl round.
Colin had some updated words relating to the media and an effects pedal which he hit with a baby drum stick for the wee wee wee wooop wooop! Did a dizzy bastard dance offsetting the others utter seriosity with much hilarity. Bruce was studying the bass so hard it might melt twice which projected an image of intensity. But the image of an instant with me to the grave is the possessed look Robert shot his hi-hat as he hit it for the last time at the end of one song.
XU12Drill—could guess the end but that did nothing to lessen the trepanning delirium of my first live Drill—could it be a? Faster than XU and revealing connections and evolutions, certainly the most educational part of the 'retrospective exhibition'.
Maybe the word about Mannequin got out but Saturday was punk night. The Gilbert switched to angry red guitar. 12XU and Mercy got a pogo jigging up front whilst a lady asked for Mr. Suit. Almost the same set but played even finer as expected except pop sloppy Mannequin. Added Heartbeat, which is now a completely different song and for a split seemed Strange.
Surpassed by sonic highlight of Drilling with Susan Stenger on third guitar. "Here's a friend of ours who's not got quite as big a bottom as you might think," introduced that cheeking Newman tongue. And the Drill did fly!
Kevin Martin kept launching his 'Demonoid' masterpiece into the mix and spun heads after the gig by spinning the funk from which Lowdown emerged. Next day Wire looked for some of the Low funk Down Mute Driver Steve soundman guesting on stage's shine. Russell Haswell's stint in the booth on Sunday wiped the floor a right noisy mix, well worth getting there early to hear, and a fitting background to a spot of Gilbert and Lewis talk. Fruit arrived and coffee dropped and a fly buzz buzz buzzed.
Wire reversed to the end of the exhibition encoring first and flying the Pink Flag last. Terry Edwards (Scapegoats, Gallon Drunk, Brood, etc.) and Ted Milton (Blurt) did a sax duet jazzing freely with the Former Airline which merged into exciting new vistas of Lewis rant. If Wire continues to open collaborative doors like this a veritable tidal wave of variation could wash out our lug holes. This maelstrom was far from the reflective melodic beauty of He Knows. If a thread is emerging for future Wire it seems that diversity is to be woven. Hardly surprising considering the 40-400 versions they've displayed. Heartbeat, which had only been practised a couple of times before these gigs, had mutated once more by its appearance—so emotionally charged it brought tears. "That was a perfect Heartbeat," I yelled an instant review as I recovered and Colin dove headlong into the most fiery 12XU... some git chucked things at Colin but maybe the anger spurred him to the heights. Sunday was the hottest. Reversed spiralling upwards to closure in a perfectly harmonious typically clever Wire move:
It all started at the RFH with a crash of a Pink drum and a flash of white light and finished with a "How many are?" and a black curtain drawn across. Behind the curtain, the exhibition remnants were slowly dismantled. The next move is to write some new songs and hear what happens...
Photography: Kevin Eden