English post-punk pioneers Wire played a sold-out show at the Bowery Ballroom with Bear In Heaven on Tuesday night. The lineup seemed like an odd match, but it was surprisingly refreshing: Bear In Heaven’s synth-heavy rhythms segued nicely into Wire’s heavy sound.
Fans were still making their way into the venue as Bear In Heaven started to play. The crowd was a diverse group: the older NYC punk demographic clearly there to see Wire and the younger, more honeyed audience for Bear In Heaven. The Brooklyn trio has a solid fanbase in the area, so it was no surprise to see a few early birds singing along to the band’s set, which was mostly comprised of material from 2012’s I Love You, It’s Cool.
By the time Bear In Heaven played their last note, the venue was completely packed. Wire jumped into their set, which was almost lighthearted at times—not what you’d necessarily expect from a band that’s been labeled as one of the most intense of the punk and post-punk movements. From their stage presence and facial expressions, it’s easy to tell that Wire’s hearts are still fully in it. Although Wire’s set was heavy on their newer material, especially 2013’s Change Becomes Us, the group opened with the spacey track “Marooned,” off their 1978 classic Chairs Missing.
Despite the subdued tone of most of their latest songs, like “Re-invent Your Second Wheel” and “B/W Silence,” Wire managed to make some serious noise with tracks like “Doubles And Trebles” and “Stealth Of A Stork.” The band was clearly ready to unleash its inner fury with fuzzy guitars and wailing vocals. Frontman Colin Newman and bassist Graham Lewis were constantly jumping and running around the stage as they tore through gnarled guitar riffs and punishing bass parts. The band closed with “Attractive Space,” a noisy, grimey track that left fans cheering for more.
Overall, the audience was fairly tame for most of the show. Odd, because I expected some sort of mosh pit formation during the set. Fans danced agnd moved about, but it was more organized chaos than an out of control pit. The pushing and shoving didn’t start until Wire’s encore. As the band returned to the stage, an excited audience member yelled, “Yeah motherfucker!” Newman calmly replied in a deep English accent, “We are not MOFOs.”
This turned out to be false, as the band ripped through an encore that made every band member seem like Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction. Newman threw his hands up in the air, like a maestro alerting a symphony to the start of a song, and made his way back to the mic as drummer Robert Gotobed rolled into the title track off their iconic debut album Pink Flag. The band followed by going out with the roaring “Comet,” off 2003’s Send. Wire exited once again to even bigger applause. They returned for a second encore and closed out the set with a final improv-heavy noise-rock jam that left my ears ringing hours after the show. Some bands slow down and dull with time, but Wire has only further solidified the trope that punk knows no age.