Wire’s tour in support of their new album, Silver/Lead, struck first in Phoenix, Arizona on March 28 at the Crescent Ballroom just days before its release.
Though the excitement in the room was palpable, it was a little unnerving to see such a sparse crowd for punk rock’s most influential outlier. Since their debut, and most celebrated, album Pink Flag hit stores in 1976 Wire have released multiple albums, each with a sound all their own. Silver/Lead is the the UK band’s sixteenth album.
After the openers the lights went low and the band members quietly ambled up onto the stage from a side room. Singer and guitarist Colin Newman, under the shade of his bucket hat, bassist Graham Lewis, drummer Robert Gotobed and guitarist Matthew Simms with combed flowing hair took their spots.
The set started off with Gotobed launching into his steady punk rock version of a Charlie Watts beat–consistent, stable, locked in place and unbending. The song was “Boiling Boy” off 1988’s A Bell Is A Cup… Until It Is Struck and it brought the movement of a train into a room. Guitars built up around the relentless beat creating an incredible progression of live sound. Simms, on the left, stomped on pedals and released squalls of feedback. Newman’s moss-covered vocal chords blended lowly into the mix.
Next were the new songs “Diamonds in Cups,” with a sparkly chorus and jagged guitars, the slow rolling “An Alibi,” “This Time” and later, the ghostly “Brio.” They reconstructed a large chunk of Silver/Lead. What a nice change to hear new music before it’s been released or leaked.
Anyone hoping to hear anything from the landmark works Pink Flag or 154 would have to settle for the quick sixty seconds from the former’s “Three Girl Rhumba,” inserted early on between the new songs. The big regret there being unborn in London fifty years ago. Wire remained in the present playing mostly songs from this century.