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BEING THERE: Wire @ Union Transfer

Photo by PETE TROSHAK

Minimalist Brit post-punk legends Wire brought their Dadaist art-punk to a joyous, head bobbing crowd at the Union Transfer last night. Wire has only played Philly once in the last decade, and the joint was packed with fans both old and young to catch this rare performance. Early on the crowd buzzed about the setlist, wondering if the band, which has always taken pride in defying expectations, would eschew their classics for a singular focus on the new Change Becomes Us. Those fears were put to rest when Wire delivered a spastic, barking “Drill,” from 1987’s Ideal Copy, as the second song of their set. “Drill” dovetailed perfectly into the urgent throb of “Doubles &Trebles” from the new album.That combo brought a roar from the crowd and served to erase the line between “new” and “old” material, from then on it was all Wire and all good. Drummer Robert Grey looked hard-as-nails and beat his drums accordingly, relentlessly driving home the group’s jagged time signatures. Fedora-topped bass player Graham Lewis dug in deep, his knees buckling as he dredged up rumbling, contrapuntal basslines and yelped the occasional vocal.  Bespectacled lead singer/guitarist Colin Newman added a vicious, clanging angularity with his sea-foam green Airline six-string. New guitarist Matthew Simms, a dead ringer for Neil from The Young Ones, was the perfect foil for Newman, delivering sharp stabs of color and shade. New songs like “Magic Bullet” and “Adore Your Island” were standouts, and the band played an unreleased song called “Blogging Like Jesus” for only the second time. The set was hot enough that it called for two encores. The first featured a searing “Comet” paired with a barreling Texas-roadhouse-via-London “Spent” that almost finished off the crowd. The band returned to the stage triumphantly for two more songs. First up was a snarling, venomous “Two People in a Room” and the finale was, not surprisingly, “Pink Flag.” Newman spat out the words, choking out notes and chords while his band-mates wailed around him. Bodies slammed together in the crowd up close to the stage as the band pounded out four minutes of fury and frustration. The whole place seemed like it was about to collapse when the band shifted gears, closing out their set with a cascading psychedelic coda to “Pink Flag” that soothed the crowd. As the instrumental drew to a close, Newman flashed a peace sign and smiled while thanking the crowd before the band disappeared back into the shadows. – PETE TROSHAK

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