Totally Wired – still influential

Wire/Stranger Son The New Continental, Preston

Cult London post-punk outfit Wire felt they had landed in a different micro-climate when they played the New Continental at the weekend.

The influential four-piece, an inspiration on so many bands since 1976 – not least Blur and the Manic Street Preachers – found themselves feeling the heat in Preston.

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Colin Newman (guitar, mandola, vocals) and Graham Lewis (bass, backing vocals) wiped their brows and wondered aloud about the sweltering conditions, suggesting they encountered far less tropical conditions on their US tour’s first leg recently.

But the steamy Ribble Delta didn’t deter them from delivering a blistering set, with plenty of surprises and proof – if it were needed – that Wire are still on top of their game 36 years after influential debut Pink Flag.

The latest sell-out Tufflife Boogie night to remember started rather splendidly as Manchester band Stranger Son offered the best aspects of everything from late Joy Division to a little Kraut-rock-inspired electronica.

Guitar and synth-driven in equal measure, built around a hard-working drummer, and always just the right side of art-house and morose. John Peel would have adored them.

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Then we had Wire, showcasing most recent release Change Becomes Us, the wealth of great songs from that album alone show-casing their continued importance to a wider scene.

This wasn’t a greatest hits package, but we at least got to hear the sublime Map Ref. 41oN 93oW and plenty of that old punk energy too, and not just from the older songs.

Recent tracks like the wonderful Adore Your Island is pretty typical, veering between later more reflective Wire and good old shouty Wire.

There was evidence in new compositions like the Magazine-like Blogging (like Jesus) that they’ve plenty more to offer too, in a set including prime cuts from several treasured long players.

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From slow-building opener Marooned and the hypnotic Drill onwards, drummer Robert Grey and most recent addition Matt Simms on guitar proved their worth.

And with Newman’s fine fretwork and Lewis’ backing, the new songs at the heart of the set worked so well, not least the awesome Love Bends.

But there was no clear distinction between the eras as we built towards Boiling Boy, 25 years on from its release.

They saved their more raucous numbers for the encore, a joyously-frenetic Comet and Spent from Send leading to Pink Flag, closed out amid a sea of feedback, this seminal outfit clearly growing older with plenty of attitude as well as wisdom.Malcolm Wyatt

Malcolm Wyatt

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