City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

City Guide to Edinburgh, Scotland

Wire, The Liquid Room, Review

By Euan Andrews - Posted on 29 November 2011

Show Details
The Liquid Room

“It’s been a long road to come back here. And we bring rain”. So solemnly intones Wire bassist Graham Lewis, garbed in black with highland regiment cap atop his bald head.

For sure, the season of wind and rain has unleashed itself upon Edinburgh, had it ever really gone away. This may be one reason why The Liquid Room is surprisingly only half full. Another cause of this may be Wire deciding on the route less travelled and playing both Edinburgh and Glasgow on the Scottish leg of their current tour. Glasgow is the following night, a Friday, so possibly the central Scottish punk intelligentsia are saving themselves for that.

It’s also Wire’s second Edinburgh gig in the space of a year in support of current album, “Red Barked Tree”, a release which saw a resurgence of critical support for these punk survivors. Not that Wire have been punks for a very long time, were they ever in the first place. Despite the charged ferocity of debut album “Pink Flag”, arriving in the midst of the 1977 punk wars, Wire have since branched out into sonic territories unexplored by some of the more decrepit of their formative era.

Onstage they resemble a group of slightly diffident fifty-something university lecturers. Officially a trio now since the departure of founder member Bruce Gilbert, his place onstage is now taken up by a younger guitarist whose straggly hair and skinny demeanour give him the visual impression of having been spat direct from the early shoegazing nineties. Vocalist and lead guitarist Colin Newman, laptop set up before him, rocks back and forth stage front, his movements occasionally veering into groovy dad territory, but his sheer clipped and inscrutable presence make him constantly watchable.

Any audience members hoping for a blast from the punk past tonight are sorely disappointed. Cries for songs off “Pink Flag” are met by Lewis muttering dismissively, “Can’t a man escape his past?”. This is very much a set which takes into account over thirty years of production and displays Wire as a fully functional, tight and mobile unit.

Drummer Robert Grey maintains a furiously pummelling rhythm throughout as Newman barks out vocals while slashing at his guitar strings and Lewis weaves densely booming bass patterns. Wire have had notoriously fractious and rancorous relationships with each other over the years, but tonight they seem to be completely in tune with one another, even, heaven forbid, permitting the occasional smile between themselves as they unleash powerful waves of sound. A particular highlight of the evening is the ever sublime jetstream glide of 1980’s “Map Ref. 41 Degrees North, 93 Degrees West”.

There is nothing about this evening which could be said to be an exercise in nostalgia or mere crowd-pleasing. Wire were always above all that, and it works in their favour. Having started out by sonically charging and boosting the potential of punk, they’ve remained set on that course ever since and remain quintessentially British art-pop essentials.

Wire played The Liquid Room on 17 November 2011.