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Review

Wire

Showbox, Seattle, USA (May 6, 2000)

We arrived at the Showbox a bit late, thanks to inexplicable bridge traffic, and missed the first ten-to-fifteen minutes of Hovercraft. As usual they were pretty amazing, playing in front of fast-paced films, with no lights except that of the projector. The threesome pummelled away at one long piece of instrumental madness that swung to and from Buttholes/Swans/SY/Floyd territory. What sounded like improvised experiments gave way to structure and composition as maddeningly intense music synched with really 'roller coaster' breakneck speed.

The final image was a slow motion shot of a lightbulb hitting the ground and exploding to the sound of the band hitting an intense climax and then stopping abruptly.

Barely had we had a chance to get our breath back when Wire made its entrance.

There were no keyboards whatsoever—this was a textbook 'drums and wires' performance, to quote XTC. Robert looked like a skinny older gent, but pounded on his drums with a precision unmatched by most humans—just awesome. Bruce looks totally grey, and basically stood in one spot all night, coaxing layers of Shimmering sounds from his red guitar, looking over his glasses at Colin and Graham.

Colin still looks great, a nice full head of hair, easily the 'youngest' looking Wire bloke. Graham now sports a shaved head but otherwise looked the same as before, at least from pictures...

The show was nothing short of amazing. The '70s tunes were either extended into intense, trancey pieces or were presented in a more straightforward short-punk style. The '80s tunes lack synthesisers, instead allowing Colin and Bruce to combine and create such layered, full guitar sounds that the new arrangements ended up being the best of 'both' Wires.

The gig began with Pink Flag, with Robert kicking it off on the drums and it just exploded from there. The piece was much longer than the studio version, with furious layers of guitars that built and built towards the end.

Silk Skin Paws was very textural, with great off-beats from Robert, and proved that the band can transform the '80s material, as did Boiling Boy, where Bruce and Colin meshed perfectly as it built and built...

Next was Lowdown, the first tune to be played just like the original version, the crowd chanting along with Colin's 'that's the lowdown' spoken part. Advantage in Height followed—short and just like the record, except all done on guitars. Robert's drumming was precise, and Graham's backup vocals on the chorus made him look like he was positively in pain. Colin, Graham and Bruce occasionally closed their eyes and submitted to the hypnotic throb of their own music.

He Knows was next—this was slow and creepy, followed by 40 Versions, with Bruce and Colin generating feedback for several minutes while Graham changed basses. This tune gets the award for 'most changed'—a little pop tune that closes 154 is now a huge, hypnotic, intense 12-minute number.

Another the Letter was short, intense and to the point, and was followed by Mercy, which was flat out amazing. Graham screamed like a banshee in the closing moments, a whole ending section was added to the song not present on the album version, and it made a perfect set closer.

The first encore was 12XU; again very intense, very fast, Graham screaming again like a nut, Colin grinning like a kid during the 'got you in a corner' lyrics.

Drill closed the evening, and was more of a 'drill variation' (a la The Drill CD). Colin never sang the words present in the original, instead Wire rang out with shards of obscenely loud feedback and noise, which built and built for minutes until Colin finally screamed "could this be a drill?" at which point everyone but Robert stopped, and then they built up the whole thing again!

Again, Graham screamed the house down as the music built in intensity. Finally, with another "could this be a drill?" they ended on a dime and exactly 60 minutes after they took the stage, they left.

It's not nostalgia, it's a re synthesis of everything Wire used to be, and everything it still is. Here's hoping they'll stick around this time, but if they don't, they sure know how to pop their heads in every decade or so and blow us all away. Long live Wire!

Dare I say it was a nearly perfect performance? 'Cause it was!

Set list: Pink Flag, Silk Skin Paws, Boiling Boy, Lowdown, Advantage in Height, He Knows, 40 Versions, Another The Letter, Mercy.

Encores: 12XU, Drill.

Mitch Goldman

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