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Wire

Liquid Room, Edinburgh
4 stars
“Can you ever really escape your past?” Wire's glengarry-sporting
bassist Graham Lewis asks as the band return for their first encore of
a louder, punkier and less polite set than when they visited Edinburgh
in February. The answer to such a philosophical enquiry is probably no,
even if vocalist and guitarist Colin Newman has spent much of the set
peering over professorial specs reading lyrics from a twenty-first
century ipad which he later morphs into a keyboard.

Material from this year's Red Barked Tree album and some older fare is
played at a volume coruscating enough to compensate for the band's
no-nonsense lack of chat. Given their art school roots, it's surprising
how uncompromisingly basic a set-up Wire keep. Where their peers might
theatricalise or recreate an album's studio embellishments with
orchestral add-ons or such like, Wire strip everything back. There is
nothing onstage that isn't black and white other than Newman's
beautiful sea-green guitar. While Lewis, drummer Robert Grey and
touring guitarist Matt Simms sport t-shirts, Newman looks every inch
the European arts mandarin he probably could have become.

With the harmonies of sublime 1979 single, Map Ref. 41*N 93*W
studiously left out and Simms spending much of the set on his knees
manipulating a swathe of FX pedals, it all makes for a brutal assault,
which on Drill and Two People In A Room reveals Wire's debt to the
thrashy fuzz of Brian Eno's 1970s song-based albums. After a
thrillingly extended take on Pink Flag has squawled its metal machine
noise music into submission, Newman faces the audience as he departs,
holding his ipad triumphantly aloft, the future ahead of him at last.

The Herald, November 21st 2011

ends

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