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    Seeing as Wire are re-fuelling their luxury private Jet, and stocking up on crates of Jack Daniels and mountains of Rock & Roll smelling salts ready for the next leg of the tour, I thought I'd bring up the thorny subject of 'Old Songs'.

    Obviously most of us on this forum know full well it won't be a nostalgia-fest and a big chunk of the set list will, quite rightly, come from Red Barked Tree. Where old songs are played, they tend to be the less obvious ones...German Shepherds, Underwater Experiences or whatever. From the drunk and uninitiated in the venue there will inevitably be unintelligible shouts for certain songs (OI AM THE FLOY!, WAAAN TOOO EGGG STEWWW) and a few bemused folk expecting a re-enactment of 'Live at the Roxy'. Happily of course it often works in their favour and the fair-weather fans and newcomers will be blown away by the performance and hooked in by the new stuff. It is a gamble though.

    The argument from the band has generally been that they don't want to play material if they don't think they can do it justice, or play it with sufficient conviction. I suspect they also see playing any old stuff, no matter how obscure, as a bit of a concession anyway particularly since they've spent large portions of their career not playing any of it.

    Some of the real Wire 'Pop' moments will be particularly unlikely to get an airing, so no Outdoor Miner, Dot Dash, Feeling Called Love, I Am The Fly, In Vivo, Eardrum Buzz, Ahead, Three Girl Rumba and so forth. I wonder if the band have a particular dislike for those numbers or if it's merely a practical issue with the playing of those, or doing them justice without the additional instrumentation.

    I suppose they could go down the Bob Dylan route and murder those songs so spectacularly that you'd beg them to stop!

    I don't think this is a decision taken lightly, especially nowadays when the main revenue stream for bands is 'Live'. The simple fact is if Wire did go out and play 90 mins of classics, or do a tour playing '154' in full, they'd be booking the bigger venues that their contemporaries like say, The Stranglers are doing.

    I quite admire their stance and indeed I would rather hear new or less familiar songs played with some intensity rather than watch a band go through the motions. I find it quite boring if I see another band and they just crank out the hits, especially bands who save their biggest hit for the encore (yuck!). I've certainly never subscribed to this daft idea that bands 'owe it to their fans' to play what they want to hear. What I want from a band is an experience, not a re-enactment of past glories.

    If I have one complaint it's that some of the 'older' material has been in the set for several tours, and I'm not thrilled at the prospect of another run through of 'Boiling Boy'. I was surprised to see Kidney Bingos back in the set though, so you never know what might be pulled out the hat and with a tour this long I would imagine they might want to shake the set up as they go along to keep it interesting, or maybe some new songs will be written in hotel rooms and given a road-test.

    Who knows, maybe It'll be 8 songs from the next album plus Former Airline, Eastern Standard and a few choice selections from Manscape by the time they get to the April shows!
    I personally think a ripping rendition of A Question of Degree would fit in quite nicely with an RBT-centric set.

    If anyone's taking a poll.
    I'd love to hear Outdoor Miner and The Offer played live, they'd go well with the current sound.

    Wasn't "Map Ref..." played live in France last year ?
    As far as I know, practicality (in terms of being able to play a song but also in remembering how it's played) is a big part in what makes the live set list. It's also clear that songs that show up are ones the band enjoys and/or thinks could work in the context of what they're currently doing. Certainly, some of the poppier stuff could work well in the current set, such as Outdoor Miner and The Offer (although given that no-one in Wire can fully remember the lyrics of The Offer, that's not a good starting point). I'd love to hear Ahead at some point, because that was always great live. Don't hold your breath regarding Three Girl Rhumba, though, for obvious reasons.
    "given that no-one in Wire can fully remember the lyrics of The Offer"

    Maybe they could play the record and listen to the words? Seriously, don't they keep things like lyrics? So much for Colin's much-touted 'archive' ... on the other hand, maybe they could make up some new words for any they can't hear from a play of the original?!? Unbelievable!

    Let's face it, Wire are 'artists' and would hardly play a set of fan favourites. That simply wouldn't do! Far better to trot out a long boring 'non-pop' mouldy oldie like Boiling Boy, or a 'difficult' tune like Being Sucked In (which is good but not exactly most people's top Wire 'hum') than one that 'the kids' - or rather, the old men - would REALLY want to hear.

    I've loved Wire for 25 years but they really are a pretentious bunch of contrary old blokes! I've read interviews where they make (to varying degrees) negative comments about Mannequin, the 15th ... so why did they record 'em?!? (Thankfully they DID because let's face it, they're the kind of tunes that turn up on fans' 'best of Wire' lists all the time.)

    Having said all that, many of the artists I like have a tendency to be awkward/pretentious/over-analytical/difficult/self-destructive - ME Smith, Beefheart, Devoto, early Pere Ubu(as in pre-1995 or so) - and maybe that's what gives the music its edge. I just fail to understand why some of these people feel this need to (pretend to) look down at their own material. You know they like it, they know we like it: if they're playing oldies, throw in a few 'pop hits' as well or just stick to new stuff, as Wire did in the 80s. I can sympathise with a band just playing new stuff far more than I can with a band that goes through its back catalogue and omits almost ALL the most beloved tunes.

    Having said that, it's beyond me how people can play 'old hits' night after night, years and years after their release and virtually ignore the new stuff. But that's why Buzzcocks, Cheap Trick, etc rake in the readies after all these years, and why people still go to see them.

    Oh what a quandary for the serious artist!

    • CommentAuthorcc says...
    • (CommentTimeFeb 3rd 2011)
    they wouldn't want to in a sense reclaim "Three Girl Rhumba"? If they felt the settlement was unsatisfactory, that implies they expect more mileage out of the song (and take some pride in it, I suppose). Or is there another reason they wouldn't want to perform it?

    it may be that doing more "hits" would put them in bigger venues in the UK, but I doubt it would have the same effect in the US and I suppose elsewhere. I don't think they had a comparable popular impact (actually, I didn't know they had any to speak of in the UK, either). So then they'd either have to come up with 2 different sets, or they might be playing a hits-filled list to US audiences and thinking, why are we doing this?
    It's a tricky balence, I like to hear tracks from the new album, I'd be really pleased if a few brand new 'pieces' started to appear in the set like the old days.

    My main issue with oldies is that it's the same ones that have been played for a number of years, it would nice to have a few curve-balls thrown in, Kidney Bingos was a start, they've got quite a back catalogue to chose from, I'd love to hear Ahead as well.
    There weren't really any hits in the US to speak of. A few of the Mute-era tracks turned up on 120 Minutes on MTV and similar, and frankly when many people tell me "I remember Wire - and I don't like them" I know they're really saying "I didn't like Eardrum Buzz" (or In Vivo). A refresher course in their catalog usually works wonders. Most people didn't watch that wretched Suzanne Somers talk show, or Drill might have left an impression on some of them.

    So it's really up to the band when they show up here, which is fine by me! I'd much rather they were actively interested in what they were playing than pandering to audience wish lists. The Police's reunion is the biggest example ever of a bored band going through the motions to humor fans. Rotten show.

    As far as not liking old material, all I can say is having gone to art school for both photo and video there are a number of old images/pieces that friends remember fondly but I can't bear the thought of. I chalk it up to development of my eye, ideas, and outlook - not posturing. If Wire's collective mind was frozen in time back in '77 I don't think I'd be here now talking about them. I would have stopped paying attention ages ago.

    p.s. I wasn't much of a fan of In Vivo either until the bootleg series - excellent rendition, that one!
    @hippriest: "Maybe they could play the record and listen to the words?"

    Nice. Ever thought that maybe both Colin and Graham already spent hours listening to various Wire tracks, in order to update the site's lyrics archive and make it as accurate as possible? The problem with The Offer (and some other tracks) is that some of the lines are indistinct. And while copies exist of some lyrics from older albums, we don't have everything (and some stuff we do have access to isn't accurate anyway).

    Your attitude to what the band plays is also, frankly, bizarre. Wire plays the songs it plays because it enjoys doing so. Should it be compelled to play song 'x' or 'y' just because the fans want it? And what do the fans want anyway? Ask 100 different Wire fans what Wire should play and you'd get 100 different set lists, with little crossover. Surely, better to let Wire itself make those decisions, based on what's appropriate, what's of interest, and what can be reworked as they see fit?

    @cc: I think it's more that when you're a band that's never hit the big-time and some other band makes hundreds of thousands of dollars from sampling your track despite claiming it didn't (and then—OHO!—have the lead singer 'cheekily' posing at every opportunity with the source sticking out of her pocket), and then the record label initiates a quickfire settlement without your input, from which you receive sod-all, you might not really feel terribly compelled to revisit that material.
    Concur with 7jlong—as long as the band is interested in what they're selecting and playing, I can't be too disappointed if I don't hear a personal favourite. Far more disappointing to hear a lifeless by-the-numbers version of said personal favourite. I can be as critical of Wire as the next guy around here, but, hell, I'd never complain about set lists as long as what they do play is done out of genuine desire.
    I was delighted to see that Two People in a Room has resurfaced and pray they don't jettison it from the set list before they get to the US.
    • CommentAuthorcc says...
    • (CommentTimeFeb 3rd 2011)
    thanks again Craig for the insight, though I do think the band's response to that whole affair could go in several different ways. But the issue of songwriting credits also had internal ramifications, so I can see why it might be best to just leave it alone.

    I'm not sure I'd even attend a back-catalog-oriented show, even never having seen them live before the O47 gigs. I'm not really into the "reunion" thing in general, or the "classic album played live" series, hence I skipped the first Mk. III shows, then I guess was out of the loop about the Read and Burn period until it was almost over. Now I understand that it was never exactly a "reunion" as other groups have done (though it wasn't wholly different, either), that they were ahead of a curve rather than behind it--I should have probably figured this out at the time. But I still probably wouldn't be interested in an old-stuff set, and I'd guess that in the US it would gain them barely a tick in attendance (so guys, don't do it!).
    "Wire plays the songs it plays because it enjoys doing so."

    Thanks for pointing that out!

    " Nice. Ever thought that maybe both Colin and Graham already spent hours listening to various Wire tracks, in order to update the site's lyrics archive and make it as accurate as possible?"

    To be honest, I assumed that when an artist wrote a lyric, they would keep it in a file or box or something with the words 'My song words: do not put in bin' or something similar written on it. Shows how much I know. But then I have the records with those songs, I won't ever be able to afford to see Wire again whether they play The Offer or not, so it isn't really an issue for me. I'm more concerned right now with whether the second series of Veronica Mars gets any better: it's such a disappointment after the excellent first series. Hey ho.
    I seem to remember recent discussion revolving around all of Graham's pre-1988 archives being discarded without notice. Perhaps the lyrics to The Offer was one of the losses.
    "I seem to remember recent discussion revolving around all of Graham's pre-1988 archives being discarded without notice. Perhaps the lyrics to The Offer was one of the losses. "

    Yes, could be. On a similar (sort of) note, I have some live shows by The Feelies where they cover Mannequin and Outdoor Miner and on the latter they just go 'duh-duh-duh' at the points in the song where they don't know the words! Quite funny to think that they still had the 'chutzpah' to play it without knowing all the words. They do both songs quite well, all things considered.
    "To be honest, I assumed that when an artist wrote a lyric, they would keep it in a file or box or something with the words 'My song words: do not put in bin' or something similar written on it."

    Depends how precious you are about what you're doing. I've written hundreds of songs myself, and I don't have the lyrics for all of them. In one case, it really annoys the crap out of me, because I really want to know what I'm saying, but I have no idea bar guesswork. Same with The Offer and Wire.
    Isn't The Offer one of Bruce's anyway?

    Another issue may be that there's a chance 'fans' may be far more familiar with much of the older material in present day than the artists themselves. I still regularly play 20-30 year old Wire material, but I wouldn't be surprised if the members of Wire didn't. As such it's not necessarily so perverse that some of the material lacks the familiarity and immediacy it has for fans and why Colin sometimes has to refer to lyric sheets.

    On the subject of Bruce's words, anybody know the correct version of Long Lost Life and the first line of There Are?
    "Isn't The Offer one of Bruce's anyway?"

    Hmm. Not sure. I'd have to look at ELAH. Makes sense to me, though.

    I was being a little tongue-in-cheek about Graham's archives to suggest that even the best intentions for historical record sometimes go awry. Another spectacular example might be NASA wiping the original videotapes of the Moon landing for no better reason than a tape shortage. Oops.

    As Ian B points out, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that what might seem like monumental moments of art and culture that should be preserved under glass were sometimes just another day in the studio for the artist. If I remember correctly from the book, Colin wasn't even that fond of The Offer.
    @Ian B: On Long Lost Life, I'm pretty sure the Wireviews version is close:

    Every box we know, every dying cell
    Every broken vein has a tale to tell

    His body shrieks, his colour goes
    Water trickles where blood used to flow

    Will he reach Nirvana? He examines his years
    And slowly the long lost life appears

    Memories correct for a lost soul
    He was slow enough to pass through an endless life

    There's a black shape growing inside
    There's a black shape growing inside

    Inside, there's a black shape growing inside
    Outside, there's a white shape dying outside

    No idea about There Are.
    Many thanks Craig.

    Are these somebody's estimate or are they rubber stamped (or a rubber stamped estimate)? I'd have gone for 'His body shrinks' and 'Memories parade for the last time in a slow march past.......'

    At least that was how I used to hear it. Long time since I played it, mind