Reviewed by Louisa Kasza
18th February 2014
Perennial cool dads Wire played to a mellow crowd at a not-too-packed-out Kings Arms last night. Although it's a shame when shows don't sell out, it did mean that a dedicated and attentive audience hung off every note, and the severe music-fandom of many punters made for respectful and courteous gig-going. Opening the evening with a hiss and a roar were Trust Punks, a youthful Auckland act who have been making ripples, which may yet turn into waves, over the past year. With a total of four guitars on stage, the effect was semi-organised chaos - disharmonious guitar pop made by choir boys gone wild. Charmingly gawky, their deadpan but engaged performance made a refreshing change from the swagger of flamboyantly hip indie acts of the last decade, while their genuine exuberance offers a stark contrast to the present state of said acts, many of whom are now becoming worn and jaded.
Thankfully, this was not the case with Wire, who obviously still relish playing live. As promised, they played a selection of both old and new tracks, opening with the coldly beautiful 'Marooned' from 1978's Chairs Missing, a gracious gesture from a group who once famously hired a Wire tribute band as their opening act to avoid playing their own back catalogue (slyly referenced by Trust Punks' threat 'we're going to play an old one... it's called 'Outdoor Miner'. Just kidding'). As their discography proves, Wire have never allowed themselves to be weighed down by their legacy, easily jumping from true punk in the seventies to synth-heavy new wave in the eighties to the heavier sounds of the nineties onwards while retaining their chilly minimalist core. This may be due to their lack of true commercial success but, regardless, is laudable.
Wire played a relatively straight show interspersed with dad jokes, with little of the artifice or spectacle older bands often use to make up for sloppy musicianship. The main visual point of interest onstage was the glossy chestnut mane of guitarist Matt Sims of It Hugs Back, which he used to great effect as a combination dance aid and floor sweeper. While the band were more animated and confident playing newer tracks (in direct contrast to the audience, the bulk of whom were original fans of Wire's seventies and eighties oeuvre), they generally played in tight arrangement and positioned themselves more as musicians than performers - a situation the crowd were more than happy with. Colin Newman used an ipad strapped to a mic stand as a mixing board - I initially thought he was using it as a lyrics sheet, but as he left the stage he proudly turned it toward the crowd, apparently pleased as punch with his technical savvy.
Clever tempo-switching and unidentifiable noise effects were the order of the night, and the band were adept at building and lowering momentum, peaking midway with Newman repeating 'heaven's open/there's no space' with nineties angst-soaked spirit, before spiralling down into a looser series of extended jams to finish on a thundering high note, culminating with demonic wailing from Newman, raising arms high above head as band members began vacating the stage to rapturous applause. From all appearance, it was a truly satisfying evening for band and fans alike.