Photo: Clayton Hauck
Wire’s cultural footprint cannot be measured in records sales. The artful post-punk quartet, beloved by record geeks and Brits, is a band’s band—everyone from Sonic Youth to The Cure cites it as influential. Its vast catalogue, spanning three decades, speaks to its raucous, forward-thinking commitment to the rock n’ roll canon.
But after taking in the foursome’s first-ever appearance at Pitchfork—the first time I’ve gotten to seen them live—some real talk is definitely in order.
It’s no secret that the band’s first three records—Pink Flag, Chairs Missing, and 154—are fan favorites. And I don’t care how prolific or evolved you believe that you are: When you play in a festival setting such as Pitchfork, drawing from those beloved albums comes with the territory (and the paycheck). Oh, to sing along to the tingly harmonies of “Outdoor Miner.” To soak in the textbook post-punk stylings of “I Should Have Known Better,” a sound that so many hopeful copycats would go on to emulate.
Instead, vocalist-guitarist Colin Newman and crew really painted themselves into a legacy band cliché corner—no favorites, new material only. Wheel in the deux ex machina, I say: Play something from the ‘70s.
The band drew mostly from their latest release, Change Becomes Us, and threw a few curveballs such as a song that they wrote last week while rehearsing.
Live, the mechanics are there. The guitars are as razor sharp and the drums fire off as many precise rat-a-tat-tats as one might expect of an art-punk forefather. But the crowd was at best quietly content and at worst disinterested. Which, given the band’s commitment to stirring the sonic pot, seems like a direct affront to its ethos.