After the applauded release of Wire’s 12th album, Red Barked Tree, the English post-punk legends embarked on an expansive tour, the most extravagant of their 35-year career. They visited a number of uncharted cities, then they went ahead and played England twice, which seems to come but every three decades. The touring made them a tight band, and it’s apparent here; they have no problem adhering to the rigid structures of much of their music. As far as the energy level goes, there’s no true breaking point, in fact, they’re less punk than their past hints at, but they’ve refined their playing with plenty of accomplished intensity.
Recorded at Radio France’s Paris studio in May 2011, The Black Session is a chance for diehards to relive Wire’s last stop through town and, for others, an opportunity to catch up on what they missed. About half of the set is taken from Red Barked Tree. “Smash”, off that effort, is particularly catching in its immediacy, especially as it appears right after the driving riffs of “Comet”, a track from 2003’s Send. The paranoia and detachment are in full force on both. Meanwhile, older favorites like “Drill”, “Kidney Bingos”, “Map Ref 41°N 93°W”, and “Two People in a Room” are rife with incessant tension and that angular appeal that Wire have perfected. An encore in the form of “Pink Flag” stretches out to a satisfyingly noisy 10 minutes.
Some of the finer details might be lost on the live presentation, but it’s nothing to cry about when you consider that you’re hearing Wire in their natural habitat.
Essential Tracks: “Comet”, “Smash”, and “Drill”