Writing about Wire is hard, just like listening to a lot of their music. Just like spending a couple of hours in the sweatbox we know as probably the best live music venue in Brisbane. Just like waiting for support band Per Purpose to warm up. Just like, well, just like anything about now; I’m listening to Wire as I write this.
Getting together in 1976 just after the first year’s worth of English punk had reared its ugly head, the quartet of Londoners that made up Wire were never a bunch to follow trends or fashion; instead being intent to walk their own path and be one of the original instigators of post-punk. Often credited for expanding sonic boundaries in new and brave ways, they have influenced just about everything that has ever been labelled post-punk.
Now: maybe it’s the heat, but tonight’s lesson in crushing electronic noise doesn’t have the desired effect, except I don’t know what that effect should be. A sense of stark destruction, perhaps? I arrive just as openers Multiple Man are finishing, but don’t get a sense of what they’re really about. Per Purpose, on the other hand, know exactly what they’re about; droning jams, intense cheekbone-framed stares and wailing, shattered guitars. Towards the end of their half-hour set they finally get going and produce some quality The Fall-esque jams.
Wire were innovators in the ’70s, so I’m not sure why it feels odd to see singer-guitarist Colin Newman using a tablet and USB, but as their songs morph from one to the next without much of a discernible difference except perhaps the cacophonous volume of drone, it’s more the lack of a tune that is most frustrating. Something about the performance feels great; dark and enveloping in a brooding way, but in other ways it falls over; a lack of connection to the audience or any showing of emotion, perhaps.
Some bands make great records and others were born to play live, and I think Wire fall into the first category.