The Garage, London (May 26-28, 2000)
The Garage is an excellent venue for Wire: a nice small club that holds around 300-400 people. Unlike on the American tour, Wire had no support here, just a DJ.
Soon, the band ambled on and lurched into a cracking Pink Flag, Colin adorned in a Bastard T-shirt, Graham in a black jacket, Bruce and Robert in T-shirts and jeans, all as equally stripped-down and honest as the songs in the set.
There were noticeably fewer songs than at Royal Festival Hall. Those ditched included Art of Persistence, Being Sucked in Again, A Serious of Snakes and Madman's Honey, but touring has honed the remainder beautifully. Numbers such as Advantage in Height are now extremely tight, whereas longer workouts, such as 40 Versions, groove along with more confidence than before.
Saturday seemed to be the domain of the 'punk's not dead' crowd, including (of all people) Mr. Subhumans' singer, no doubt upset at the lack of Manscape material (heh heh). Requests for Mary is a Dyke didn't seem to overly interest Colin.
Finally, a new addition to the set came in a great version of Mannequin as a set closer. The band quickly returned for an encore that moved into new territory. It began with a prolonged and distressed version of Heartbeat, showing real signs of a band working out some new ideas on stage. Bruce then moved to bass, Graham onto a sampler, and Colin began whacking an effects box with a drumstick for a cracking Go Ahead. A fiery version of 12XU followed, prior to the evening's close, a mostly instrumental 'wig-out' of Drill. How could they top that?
I sort of expected a re-run on Sunday, but that would have been boring, and certainly wouldn't have been Wire.
Bruce walked on with two saxophonists and fired up a barely recognisable Former Airline. The other three guys ambled on and joined in, creating a 15-minute salvo of free-form noise that merged into Heartbeat. It almost made me feel like I was listening to Document and Eyewitness, but with better sound quality.
Then it emerged that the general idea was to play the set backwards, which was fine by me. Everything bar Mannequin got played again in fine style. A Mute Driver joined in for Lowdown, and yet again Advantage in Height was a real highlight.
After a rousing Pink Flag it was all off. The curtains were drawn and activity looked imminent, but it was not to be. Maybe this was perfect, ending where it all began. The band looked happy, but there seemed to be a bit of an 'end of an era' feel to it. Maybe now it's new stuff or no stuff, and this phase has reached a natural conclusion.
So, what was the best night? Well, they were both brilliant. Saturday was special for the encore and Sunday for the intro, which is very contrary, but also very Wire. I suspect the story has a few more chapters to be written though...
Photography: Paul Rabjohn