Wire taps into efficiency at Imperial Vancouver show

Wire with Golden Retriever at the Imperial Vancouver, 4/7/17


Photo courtesy of www.stereogum.com
Photo courtesy of www.stereogum.com

British punk legends Wire left a mark on the Imperial crowd a week and a half ago the same way the band left a lasting mark on a legion of influential names including Guided by Voices, the Urinals, Minutemen, Minor Threat, and Black Flag: not just with a flurry of songs that clocked in at under two minutes but with a straightforward demeanor too. That is to say: Wire came, Wire played, and Wire left, with little fuss between or during songs.

Openers Golden Retriever were anything but direct. The Portland, Oregon duo of Jonathan Sielaff (formerly of Au) and Matt Carlson (of Parenthetical Girls) conjured a vast, shifting soundscape with looped bass clarinet that sank to nautical depths and a modular synth that sent bleeps into the darkness like submarine signals scanning for life. Sielaff’s clarinet expanded in girth, ringing like battle horns while Carlson’s synth swelled behind it.

Wire brought structure to the night, opening with “Boiling Boy”. The song’s hypnotically steady bass, clean, melodic guitar, patient drum-kicks, and cymbal fills locked listeners in from the get-go. But pinching feedback interrupted the peaceful cruise. Wire have utilized noise before, but nothing about it seemed purposeful in this instance.

Wire kept the pace mid-tempo with a string of songs from their latest album Silver/Lead, their 15th LP which also commemorated the band’s 40th anniversary. Tempered cuts “Diamonds in Cups”, “An Alibi”, and “This Time” displayed the deliberation Wire had worked at perfecting over all those years.

Even Wire’s best-known hit “Three Girl Rhumba” sounded glossier at the Imperial. And as much as fans popped for the nostalgia blast (no doubt they thought of Elastica’s “Connection” too), they barely had time to revel: in a minute-and-a-half, “Three Girl Rhumba” was over, and Wire moved onto the next one. 

More softer moments followed inclusion “Red Barked Tree”, the closest Wire came to a Paisley moment. “Ahead” was another bright spot, having bordered on New Wave danceability.

Fans of Wire’s more discordant oeuvre were able to revel in “Over Theirs” and, most discordant of all, “Underwater Experiences”. Twisted metal noise piled up like a car crash until every part of the song came to an abrupt end. Wire ended with as close to a punk-bang as they had all night with “Stealth of a Stork”.

Overall, Wire played a show that was efficient with no frills, like most of their career output.

Leslie Ken Chu

Leslie Ken Chu