The mirthlessly gleeful Wire boys. Pix by Rob Trucks.
Wire/South Street Seaport
The Raconteurs/Terminal 5
Friday, May 30
This is a totally stupid pair of venues to visit in the same night. I admit this. Good to see South Street Seaport, though: Felt like the final rite of passage into summer, even if our evening’s marquee attraction, proudly presented by the splendid River to River Festival, is as wintry as it gets.
Though a bit older, of course—elbow brace for bassist Graham Lewis, laptop providing lyrical assistance for Colin Newman—Wire are, remarkably, just as you remember them: terse, blunt, lovingly shrill, mirthlessly gleeful. And though they throw us several brittle bones from the past (“12XU” is still gloriously terrifying), I’m thrilled to report that easily the best tune of the evening was among the newest: “One of Us,” from their new record Object 47, out in July. “One of Us,” available for download right now at Wire’s official site, is ridiculously great. As loose and poppy and anthemic as these guys deign to get (Newman even croons somewhat), its chorus made me laugh out loud: “One of us will live to rue the day we met each other.”
Ah, summer romance. The stage banter was not terribly buoyant, either: They seemed terribly amused at the notion that the Eagles were rocking out at Madison Square Garden (somewhat) nearby. “In 1977, the Eagles were one thing,” we learned. “The enemy.”
Nice vest, Jack. CREDIT.
41 minutes later (per Hopstop), the Raconteurs are similarly rancorous: “And I got what I got all despite you/And I get what I get just to spite you,” goes one refrain. But it comes out as joyous, swampy blues-rock that enthralls an absurdly packed Terminal 5, Jack White turning to stare into a mirror perched on his amp when his solos get really wacky. Jack’s at his best when bitchily haranguing subpar lovers (underrated Raconteurs song: “Top Yourself”; underrated White Stripes song: “I’m Finding It Harder to Be a Gentleman”), and Brendan Benson candy-coats that vitriol in top-shelf power-pop: “You look pretty in that fancy dress/But I detect unhappiness” sums up his worldview well enough. They work great together.
The crowd is in thrall even to Jack’s goofier notions: “Carolina Drama,” a sort of “Trapped in the Closet” for garage-rock fetishists, is just ridiculous. Nothing on the new Consolers of the Lonely pops quite as vividly as “Steady As She Goes,” but live, everything blends happily together into a viscous Allman-esque jam, Brendan and Jack tossing off the occasional Twin Lizzy duel-guitar lead. The crowd pours exuberantly out of the Terminal 5 bottleneck and out into the night; on the subway home I encounter yet more satisfied concertgoers, including one young lass with a fiery mohawk. She’s wearing an Eagles tour T-shirt.