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Review

Wire

The Casbah, San Diego, CA, USA (September 7, 2002)

It's been noted that Wire has been inactive through much of its quarter-century or so of existence. It's also entirely possible that the world needs at least that much time to recover between assaults. They were ahead of their time back then, and still are. This continually evolving gestalt has regenerated yet again, and the results are awesome and magnificent. The raw, spitting anger that suffuses their earliest recordings is still present in abundance; however, Wire have matured tremendously since those days. The rage now runs in harness, and in the hands of these veterans, fury is a precision instrument.

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From the deceptively quiet start of 99.9, Colin Newman's almost fragile vocals ride over a background of ambient noise that grows in complexity and volume as first Bruce Gilbert, then Graham Lewis take the stage, each adding to the sonic backdrop. Newman's voice rises to a savage howl over the tightly controlled cacophony before the dense sonic mesh begins to break down, fading back to its initial drone as Robert Grey takes his seat at the drum kit, completing the line-up.

This, then, is Wire.

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With barely a pause, Wire launch at full throttle. Grey's precise rhythms and Lewis's surging, muscular bass propel Gilbert and Newman's often dissonant, yet oddly melodic guitar attacks, with Newman and Lewis by turns singing, sneering, snarling, and shouting into their microphones and at the audience. The brief interludes between songs are barely long enough for anyone to catch breath or figure out what the hell is going on before the next assault roils off the stage and slams headlong into the audience.

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Wire in concert is not for the faint of heart. The immediacy of the live performance amplifies both the vigour and the venom of the records. It's exhausting and exhilarating, and while it's not even close to easy listening, it's more than worth the effort.

Set list: 99.9, Germ Ship, Mr. Marx's Table, 1st Fast, Read and Burn, The Agfers of Kodack, Comet, In the Art of Stopping, Spent, I don't Understand.

Encore: Lowdown, Pink Flag.

Sharon Lai

Photography: Sharon Lai

More photos from The Casbah

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Photography: Sharon Lai

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