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Live at the Roxy / Live at Cbgb Theatre
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Audio CD, November 14, 2006
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This double CD documents two key moments in Wire's development: their debut four-piece appearances on April 1-2, 1977 (five months before making Pink Flag), and one of their earliest U.S. shows from summer 1978, prior to the release of Chairs Missing. The Roxy was initially London's only dedicated punk rock venue and although never part of the punk scene, the band benefited from the exposure that milieu offered: at the club, Wire met Mike Thorne, who recorded their April gigs for his Roxy London WC2 compilation, brought them to EMI, and produced their first three records. In 1977, the quality of Wire's contributions to the Roxy live album ("Lowdown"; "12XU") prompted claims they had been finessed in the studio. Presented in their entirety for the first time, Wire's sets from those shows dispel that myth. Notwithstanding some juvenilia and two comedy covers ("Glad All Over"; "After Midnight"), their complete Roxy performances sound surprisingly disciplined for the shambolic punk era, proving that solid foundations were already in place for Pink Flag. By the time Wire made it to America for a mini-residency at New York's CBGB in July 1978, punk was dead and the band was moving in a radically different musical direction. The material featured here is an abridged version of a set recorded before a small audience (not at CBGB itself but in a nearby space) for broadcast on local station WPIX. Since American audiences had never seen Wire, the band uncharacteristically reprised some Pink Flag tracks. However, most of the songs come from Chairs Missing and explore exciting new territory, particularly the jagged exercises in creepy surrealism "From the Nursery" and "Practice Makes Perfect." Scant live evidence of Wire's exhilarating early phase exists; these recordings start to fill that gap, providing a vivid, fleeting snapshot of a group whose natural state was constant change. ~ Wilson Neate, Rovi
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Top Customer Reviews
On the first disc are two sets recorded at The Roxy in London, recorded some time before the release of their debut album, Pink Flag. They feature identical setlists and were performed to an almost empty room, so there is little audience interaction. The liner notes reveal that these recordings do have some historical value, however, as they were instrumental in getting the band signed to EMI.
On the second disc there is a short set they performed at the legendary CBGB Theatre in New York, featuring material from their first two albums. This performance was recorded by a radio station, but very badly! The sound quality is just awful, making me seriously regret my purchase.
Now the 2nd disc I think will get a lot of play around here. In deference to the reviewer on here, yes, it is pretty roughly recorded - it's slightly distorted and the mix isn't that fantastic. But as a document on Wire's first trip to the U.S. - post Pink Flag, perhaps at their peak, this is a great listen. Most of the material is from the just-recorded Chairs Missing but because this was their first trip to the States they threw in some Pink Flag material (though not 12XU! They're STILL Wire). An example of what a great band they were is the live version of 106 Beats That - it's faster, mathematically almost 10% faster than the studio version! And it's really, really played with a lot of guts. It is also great to hear stuff like "Marooned" and "Men 2nd" without the production of Chairs Missing, just a raw rock band. Closing the set with a raucous yet precise version of "Mercy" - I always loved this song and never knew there was this much Rock Power in there!
So with shaky performances on one disc and shaky production on the 2nd, sure, you may not want to part with 20 bucks for this (though there are several used copies for less) - but if you're an obsessive 70s Wire fan, you cannot go wrong and I guarantee once you adjust to the weird radio sound on the '78 set you will love it very very much!