For over 40 years, Wire has been one of the most innovative bands to come out of the United Kingdom, if not the world. Since their 1977 debut, Pink Flag, they’ve shifted their musical style with almost every album. Beginning as a stripped-down, breakneck-paced punk affair, Wire has embraced new textures and sounds, including electronic music.
The band’s recent show at DC’s Union Stage began with a 45-minute DJ set of electronic music, with one notable composition that sounded like a fusion of Ennio Morricone and ambient electronics.
Wire has also become known for its unpredictable live performances. In the past, they’ve played largely sets consisting of new material shortly after releasing an album. They’ve sometimes decided not to revisit their oldest material from their ’70s punk era. On March 9 at Union Stage, however, they largely stuck to recorded material, and they met the crowd’s appetite for their most iconic songs.
Last year, Wire released its 17th studio album, the critically acclaimed Mind Hive. Songs from this record made up a large chunk of the show. They played “Be Like Them,” “Cactused,” “Oklahoma,” and “Hung,” to take up a bit less than a quarter of the show.
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But in a bit of a surprise, Wire chose to play a hefty selection of their earliest material. They presented “Ex Lion Tamer” from Pink Flag, and as many numbers from their sophomore album, 1978’s Chairs Missing, as from their latest LP: “Question of Degree,” “French Film Blurred,” and “Outdoor Miner.” From 1979’s 154, they covered “I Should Have Known Better,” and, for their encore, they closed the show with “Touching Display.”
In the early ’80s, Wire on went hiatus, and many members of the band produced solo material during this time. They reunited in 1987 with Ideal Copy, from which they played “Over Theirs.” They followed that with 1988’s A Cup Is a Bell… Until Struck, and from that album they shared “It’s a Boy.”
With the exception of the Mind Hive material, Wire largely ignored the last 30 years. The balance of their set came from the 1990 record Manscape: “Patterns of Behavior” and “Morning Bell.” Wire has a true wealth of great material, and their last decade or so, following another hiatus, has been consistently strong; there’s no simply no way that the band could cover the breadth and depth of their catalogue in one show. Whether you’re a fan of punk, post-punk, or electronic music, the Union Stage concert had plenty to offer.
Here are some pictures of Wire performing at Union Stage on March 9, 2020. All photos copyright and courtesy of Paivi Salonen.