Wire Plays A Pearl Of A Well-Made Show At D.C.’s Black Cat

Wire2

Almost 40 years since creating the most intriguing, and in many ways, long-lasting debut of the punk era, Wire came to DC last night to play a show that was sinewy, powerful, and occasionally transcendent. From the opening “Blogging” — which kicks off their eponymous 2015 album Wire — to the gorgeous encore close of “Used To” from 1978’s Chairs Missing, Wire proved they are no oldies act.  This was one of the strongest shows we’ve seen in years, old masters comfortable in their skins, who can still show the young ‘uns a trick or two.

When you’ve been around as long as Wire, there are distinct eras, or at least clusters of albums connected by time and personnel.  What’s most delightful about the Wire of today is that, like Dylan on his great run between Oh Mercy and Modern Times, they’ve shown themselves at ease working within the construct that made them great as young men, while still putting out music more vital than most other working bands.  With 2011’s Red Barked Tree, 2013’s Change Becomes Us, and this year’s Wire, their output is, sure, not as “important” as 154 was in 1979.  But that’s like saying Love and Theft isn’t as important as Bringing It All Back Home.  Who cares? Wire’s most recent albums make the case for one of the most vital acts in rock music history, and it’s an exceptionally high quality output for any band, not to mention one formed in 1976.

Wire1

Robert (Gotobed) Grey and Graham Lewis still have the metronomic precision of the Atomic Clock, and it was a joy to hear Lewis sing “Please Take” and “Blessed State.”  Grey looks like a beatific and elongated version of Jeff Bezos, closing his eyes in meditation as he directs the band with the certainty of a Swiss train conductor. Colin Newman has always done double duty as an effective punk shouter and a pretty pop singer; harder to do these days live, but all in, his voice was fine.  What was really fun to see was how young Matthew Simms can extend and augment Newman’s guitar playing, occasionally playing these John McGeoch-like leads, often letting Newman carry the song on his electric 12-string.

Many years ago, when assigned to review Document And Eyewitness for NY Rocker, and thinking that the band was kaput (they broke up in 1980, only to come back five years later), we said that Wire was at its most interesting precisely at the moment when its reach exceeded its grasp.  That was true then, but there’s little outside its grasp today.  Last night’s show at The Black Cat saw a band pulling off the hardest trick imaginable: playing a set mostly with songs from albums four decades into their run, leaving no room for nostalgia.

One Response to “Wire Plays A Pearl Of A Well-Made Show At D.C.’s Black Cat”

  1. […] Us — we shoulda known better than to expect anything less.  Ah, but then we were flat out stunned, I guess is the word, by the strength of their show at the Black Cat last spring.  Colin Newman may not have the voice […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: