with Constant Mongrel

English post-punk band Wire are an ever-evolving act who have stayed at the forefront of underground music for almost 40 years. Back in Australia for the first time in three years, and hot on the heels of their biggest and best album in decades, I was keen to see them in the flesh for the first time.

Touring this time round (as it has been for the past several years) was the core trio of vocalist / guitarist Colin Newman, bassist / vocalist Graham Lewis, drummer Robert Grey (AKA Robert Gotobed), plus the much younger, and now permanent band member Matt Simms on guitar (original lead guitarist Bruce Gilbert left the band several years prior).

Opening up proceedings at Richmond's Corner Hotel were local act Constant Mongrel. Not being familiar with their repertoire, I was keen to see what Wire’s support act would produce.

Appropriately enough, their sound was heavily rooted in the punk and post-punk sound late 70s and early 80s. As interesting as their tunes were, they didn't really have a great deal of stage presence (or am I missing the point here?).

Their saxophonist, on the other hand, was mesmerising. Clad in a very 80s tank top, sunnies, and a spectacular mullet, he slightly reminded me of a younger ‘Animal’ from Hey Hey It’s Saturday. Out-dated pop culture references aside, the man walked on and off stage with casual abandon, belting out his parts with enthusiasm. Note to the band: More sax please.

After a time the red velvet curtains parted to the familiar eerie introduction of ‘Marooned’, taken from Wire's 1978 classic album Chairs Missing. For the punters in the crowd expecting this might set the tone for the rest of the show, they would soon be sorely disappointed, as the band proceeded to tear through a selection of tunes taken mainly from their recent album Change Becomes Us.

An amusing moment came when a rather inebriated fan belligerently kept requesting ‘Mr. Suit’ from first album Pink Flag. Bassist Graham Lewis rightly put him in his place, pointing out they are not a nostalgia act, nor would they play that tune even if they were. Snap!

For anyone who is familiar with the latest album, the prospect of a set comprised mainly of new material was certainly no disappointment. Change Becomes Us is a modern take on many classic tunes that have featured in live sets over the years, yet have not previously found a home on studio recordings.

Aside from a few technical glitches, tonight the band were on fire, and brought energy and muscle to newer tunes as 'Doubles and Trebles' and 'Magic Bullet', and a peppering of classics such as 'Another The Letter' and 'Map Ref. 41N, 93W'.

The thing that really impresses about this band is that when many acts are cashing in and trading on past glories, Wire are constantly pushing their sound forward - even well into their 5th decade as a band.

Oh and for the fan boys, I managed to grab Wire's set list from their friendly sound engineer:

23 Years
Doubles and Trebles
Magic Bullet
Adore Your Island
As We Go
Please Take
Another The Letter
Map Ref. 41 deg N, 93 deg W
Stealth of a Stalk
Attractive Place
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