Club Spaceland, Los Angeles, USA (June 21, 2000)
"Welcome to the scaled-down ATP."—Graham Lewis
The All Tomorrow's Parties festival may have been scaled down, so to speak, but there is nothing scaled down about Wire. After over a quarter century of on-and-off existence, Wire continue to redefine and refine themselves, creating whatever, whenever, and however they want. Through myriad changes and evolutions, one constant remains: while Colin Newman, Graham Lewis, Bruce Gilbert, and Robert Grey have worked alone, with each other in various combinations, and with countless other individual and collective talents over the years, those efforts have always been under other banners. There is only one Wire.
Even jet-lagged and somewhat dazed from having two days off, and despite the added handicap of playing last on a four-band bill (following another ATP displacee, Tokyo's Melt-Banana, as well as the two bands originally scheduled to perform, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum from Oakland, California, and Mink Lungs from Brooklyn, New York), Wire's ability to command people's attention remains unmatched. It's evident even from the opening hum of 99.9; there's something palpable in the air beyond the resonance surging through the walls and the audience. The buzz mounts as first Newman, then Lewis, then Gilbert, and finally, Grey, emerge on stage. As the final prerecorded notes fade away, Wire roar, full-throttle, straight into a set drawn entirely from their Read & Burn and Send repertoire. This is no pathetic 'greatest hits reunion' dog-and-pony show; this is in-your-face, full-force annihilation, put up or shut up, and f—— you very much. They are as ferocious and unrelenting as they've ever been, delivering a finely-honed sonic assault that is awesome, frightening, and strangely exhilarating. It's sort of like staggering through a storm of white-hot razor blades to get hosed off with a high-pressure stream of sub-zero snake venom laced with adrenaline.
After a brief pause, Wire return for a rousing encore drawn from the seminal Pink Flag, work that remains every bit as evocative and relevant as it was in 1977. The robotic stomp of Strange yields to the kinetic romp of 106 Beats That, which is promptly annihilated by a frantic, incendiary Surgeon's Girl before the stage is hastily vacated once again. It still isn't enough for the audience, and thankfully, it apparently isn't for Wire, either. They return one last time to close with a Pink Flag that is chaotic, yet structured, at once fierce, exuberant, forceful, challenging, menacing, and triumphant—perhaps a metaphor for Wire themselves.
There is only one Wire. And that is exactly enough.
Photography: Sharon Lai