erasing clouds

Wire, Wire On the Box: 1979

review by dave heaton

I don't think I'd ever seen so much as a still photograph of the members of Wire, until now. I probably have, but in my mind's eye I couldn't picture them. I imagine Wire to be ghosts, or aliens. There's a sense of mysterious distance to their music that I always transferred over to their them, I think. So watching the DVD concert film Wire on the Box: 1979 for the first time was a weird experience. Here's Wire, and they're not spirits. They don't look like shamans. They're 4 rock n' roll musicians - swinging their arms, pummeling the drums, bounding around with their heads and guitars in motion. Doing what rock musicians do. With gusto, and force, and power. Wire on the Box: 1979 presents a 1979 performance from the German TV show Rockpalast, and in doing so it transforms Wire from shadows into a living, breathing, on-fire rock n' roll band. It preserves for posterity the way they poured their guts into live performances, demonstrating that even the weirdest music is the product of human creativity, not magic.

Wire on the Box: 1979 captures the band on tour in advance of their third album 154, and much of the setlist comes from that now-classic experimental-rock album. Maybe the newness of the material explains the calm and dumbfounded looks on the faces of the audience when the camera cuts to them. Or maybe the enigmatic qualities of Wire's music has them under a spell that keeps them from looking like they're at a rock show. Or maybe they're the standard TV audience, who cares not about what they're witnessing. Who knows. In any case, the ghostliness of them works to preserve a certain aura around Wire that exists in my brain, as does the elusive, guarded manner in which the band members at first handle the post-show interview that's also on the DVD. But as the interview proceeds, they're friendly and generous. And the show itself is as propulsive as rock music gets.

The concert is presented here both on DVD and on an audio-only CD. In both cases the music roars out from the speakers and pummels you, not in an agressive, macho way but in an intense, strange way. This set is being released now under the label name Pink Flag Audio Research, meaning Wire have become historians. But there's nothing dusty about it. This is music that sounds new today as it did yesterday. It has a timeless eccentricity to it that's overpowering. Those qualities are not diminished through this live performance, they're accentuated, even as I now see the people behind the curtains.


Issue 28, November 2004

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