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London Highbury Garage

As if you needed reminding, these men are not your friends. Heroes only to the sort of people who won't admit to having heroes, the [a]Wire[/a] reunion continues to be a source of marvel and confusion

London Highbury Garage

As if you needed reminding, these men are not your friends. Heroes only to the sort of people who won't admit to having heroes, the Wire reunion continues to be a source of marvel and confusion. Like so much else about this austerely enigmatic band, the purpose of it all remains unclear. The regrouping of four sour-looking men - who were quite old even when they were meant to be young - appears, unusually, to be neither cynical nor soppy, as they persist in playing history's least obvious 'greatest hits' set.

But then understanding Wire - from leading punk's cryptic art wing, through filtering surrealism into '80s pop, to their myriad solo experiments - has never really been the point. Newman, Gilbert, Gotobed and Lewis have always made a music that's detached and impressive rather than matey and accessible. Empathy? How vulgar.

Tonight is no exception. In contrast with their multi-media event at the Royal Festival Hall in the winter, it's a proper, grimy rock show. Michael Clark is here, for sure, but lurking by the bar rather than dancing onstage, and the only ambient side-project on display is the ten minutes of effects pedal mucking about at the start whilst Bruce Gilbert tries to make his guitar work. Then, for what is reputedly the last time, they go digging in the crevices of their back catalogue for the chill riffs, the motorik rhythms, the dazzlingly opaque lyrics. And still, as they lurch artfully through 'Lowdown', or recreate the tense prettiness of 'Silk Skin Paws', Wire remain a tremendous idea for a band, driven by that callous and highly effective disregard for the emotional niceties music normally at least pretends to have. A farewell to all that can rarely have been less sentimental.

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