Wire – Graham Duff – Hare and Hounds, Birmingham, 29th January 2020
Wire have just released a new album, Mind Hive and to follow are touring around the UK, Fighting Boredom like the Post-Punk pioneers and caught them in Birmingham.
Graham Duft introduces himself as a total cunt. He apologises for a band support being spoken word and that he feels a bit like a butler at an orgy. No one really knows why he’s there. He explains that he’s written a book, A Life In Fifteen Gigs and will talk about it and read parts to us. He proceeds to do so.
His first gig was Cliff Richard, but a gospel Cliff Richard gig, no British Elvis, just Jesus stuff. He goes on to Joy Division and how Macintosh’s were the antithesis of Punk’s in your face image, yet when he bought one unknowingly at the same time as his friend they were called the Thompson Twins from Tin Tin. Then quite how much Joy Division meant to him as a kid. He talks about bad gigs too, specifically the Velvet Underground at Glastonbury and even though they were playing without sparks and life he couldn’t walk away, because it was the Velvet Underground and that meant everything. They are stories we all can tell, that’s why we are here listening to bands like Wire, but Graham has written it down. He tells a story about when he was writing a TV show with Johnny Vegas and he managed to get Mark E Smith to play God. Then following on from that how he spent an evening as an amateur drinker out in Manchester with Vic Reeves and Mark E Smith. Finishing with the moment Mark pointed out a mural in a pub they were passing of himself and that he was banned from that establishment.
Graham is humble and reads his stories with passion and enthusiasm. It is, however, a strange start to the evening.
The room is now packed, I’ve never seen the Hare and Hounds this full, it’s a prominently over fifties audience of guys that look like they have followed Wire for years. They come on stage ‘Hello’, ‘Quiet’ The guitar strums, the bass is clear and the sound is great from where I am at the back of the room. The vocal is low and quiet, the guitar comes in and the music gets louder, the drums get harder and a fuzz arrives, the discordant sound is good, the tempo switches around as they go.
A fast beat, punk guitars and feeling, goes slow and fast, the vocal is slow and hard the song is short. Bass and guitar are jarring and bumping against each other, the vocal is sung over the spiky noise.
You realise that this is where it all came from, this is the start of the sound, they did it and everyone copied them, post-punk, alternative whatever you want to call it. The band may be getting on but this music is vital, fresh and as good now as ever.
The bass is funky and cool, the guitars slashing across it. The tracks are meticulously brought to life. The music is understated with no waste. It’s slow and beautiful, still angular and slightly strange but wonderful. It gets harder but still open and accessible. A high hat led beat goes into a menacing feeling song, it builds and swells with another understated vocal.A spiky angry song, high-hat and bass drums with waves of sound over the top.
The music is absorbing, not boring at all, no fat or gristle here. There are technical problems, the mic is swapped for one that isn’t as good and they carry on. They now seem to up their game, the music becomes denser and almost drifts into psych in some moments, the sounds gel more than they have before, the music flows and Wire turn dramatic and emotional with quiet and then crescendos of post punk brilliance.
They thank us and that’s it.Wire showing that they are relevant and still matter.
Graham Duff’s website is grahamduff.co.uk
All pictures by Martin Ward, all words by Adrian Bloxham