Wire Electrifies The Bowery Ballroom

July 17th, 2013

Wire – The Bowery Ballroom – July 16, 2013

After the seminal post-punk band Wire performed a blistering version of “Drill” at the top of their set last night at The Bowery Ballroom, the sold-out crowd responded aptly, with enthusiastic cheers. But once the applause settled, a hearty moment of silence filled the room, as the audience stood quietly, respectfully waiting for the next number. For a group that doesn’t shy away from some of the most raucous reaches of punk and near-hardcore, it’s somewhat surprising that they attract such a polite and well-behaved fan base. On the other hand, in their prolific career, Wire have proved to relish variety—oscillating between extreme dynamics and styles, with music ranging from spare to exceedingly layered. The most minimal of guitar riffs can be deceptively intricate, and a melodic song intro often abruptly gives way to an aggressive chorus. As a result, Wire fans have learned over the years that it is best to pay attention.

The band, comprised of founding members Colin Newman, Graham Lewis and Robert Grey (as well as new guitarist Matthew Simms) heavily focused on material from this year’s Change Becomes Us, while also peppering the set with older selections. The new  songs contain Wire’s signature taut guitars and punchy, precise beats (“Doubles and Trebles,” “Magic Bullet,” “As We Go”) and spontaneous loud, aggressive outbursts (“Adore Your Island”), while also exploring a slightly mellow, melodic side (“Love Bends,” “Reinvent Your Second Wheel”). Newman bounced along with his guitar lines, punctuating his authoritative vocal delivery with an occasional jump, an ebullient pogo.

During Wire’s encore, the song requests that poured in, (politely) shouted from the audience, indicated a strong desire to hear old cuts from the band’s 1977 debut, Pink Flag, the album that for many, has become a contemporary classic. For their final song of the night, Wire obliged with an extremely loud, forceful version of Pink Flag’s title track, with the focused crowd lingering over every last strain of distortion. —Alena Kastin

Photos courtesy of Stephanie F. Black |