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Middle East Club, Cambridge, MA, USA (September 17, 2002)

Wire always manage to stay ahead of the game. Through their smart art/punk days of '77-'79 to the 'beat combo' alt.rock of '85-'91, they've always sounded fresh, intelligent, and left-field of modern rock. In this third incarnation, once again they've surpassed all the current rock trends and brought in a post-rock, post-punk sensibility.

I had the (mis)fortune of standing next to the stage-right speakers when Bruce's skin-rippling techno-wobble opening to 99.9 disoriented me. Robert hadn't even stepped on stage yet, and Graham, stage left, was still in the midst of setting up when Colin stepped to the mike and delivered the plaintive-to-angry opening lines. The build-up of the performance, reminiscent of 2000's performance of Boiling Boy, reeled the audience in and kept them centre stage for the rest of the night.

The bulk of the show centered around new material. I couldn't help but realise that for a quartet that's been around since 1976, they rock harder, edgier and angrier than any so-called nu-metal band. The new Wire songs are mostly fast, distorted aggropunk, such as Germ Ship, 1st Fast, and Read and Burn, with a few ever-so-slightly slower songs, such as The Agfers of Kodack and In the Art of Stopping. Comet, in particular, is an interesting piece, as the fast tempo and the slower lyrics uniquely blend.

After a blistering one-hour set, the foursome popped out for a three-song walk down memory lane with Advantage in Height, Reuters, and Lowdown, pleasing us older fans. The intriguing thing was hearing these older songs delivered in the style of their new sound, more mechanized and raw than before. A second, brief encore delivered the final song of the night, Pink Flag. The show ended leaving the audience breathless and wishing there was more.

Wire were a hell of a lot more aggressive, and in retrospect more connected to their music than their last tour two years ago, as if they'd finally found where they stood again, years ahead of everyone else.

Set list: 99.9, Germ Ship, Raft Ants, 1st Fast, Read and Burn, The Agfers of Kodack, Comet, The Art of Stopping, Spent, I Don't Understand.

Encore: Advantage In Height, Reuters, Lowdown, Pink Flag.

Jon Chaisson.

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