Wire with Arcwelder at First Avenue, 4/10/11

Wire with Arcwelder April 10, 2011 First Avenue, Minneapolis

Sunday night was a bit like a trip in a time machine -- but one where nothing gets screwed up in the future and the past has actually aged better than you thought.

Arcwelder started the night off with fantastic a set of their sludgy, oh-so-'90s, grunge-kissed brand of rock. They always puts together tight, crushing shows, and this one was no different. They were excited to be opening for Wire and it showed as they really turned it on about halfway through, burning though the songs with ferocious intensity.

Arcwelder don't dress the part of "rock dudes" anymore, but maybe it's because they don't have to. They know what they have in their back pockets and it's more than enough to prove themselves as legit. The half-full room cheered loudly during the set and at one point a small mosh erupted but only for a bit -- the crowd skewed a bit older and there are injuries to be had in those pits.

Wire with Arcwelder at First Avenue, 4/10/11

After a too-long wait (45+ minutes at least) Wire ground into their set, and quickly, the wait was forgotten. The odd song structures with drawn out intros and endings (and sometimes both), lyrics that are often spoken or barked into the microphone coupled with bursts of feedback and corrosive, ambient noises might seem -- on paper at least -- to be something that would incredibly difficult to listen to, much less enjoy.

Wire, however, long ago made it all palatable and has continued to do so for years. "Drill" is still punishing, "Kidney Bingos" still oddly beautiful and of all the bands that have been saddled with the "post-punk" or "art-punk" labels Wire seems to embody those terms more than other bands. Maybe it's because they were first and weren't following anyone, they instead were inventing and have continued on that path ever since. Many of the punk bands from the hallowed Class of '77 flamed out or were taken by drugs or other maladies and Wire have soldiered on with what seems to have been laser-like focus. There's a reason Wire's catalog seems to have not aged at all: They have always tried (and sometimes failed) to be innovative and while it hasn't always fully worked, it has always been interesting.

There aren't many bands that deserve (or would even attempt) a double-encore, but Wire did and nearly the entire crowd stayed for it's entirety. Judging by the crowd's demeanor they would have stayed for a third and likely a fourth curtain call had Wire been up to the task. But blowing the doors off of a club is a tough thing to do and to keep it up for nearly an hour and a half must leave a band spent. The crowd was filled with local musicians on Sunday, we can only hope they were taking notes.

Wire with Arcwelder at First Avenue, 4/10/11

Critic's Bias: I went in with lowered expectations for some reason, and was utterly blown away by Wire. The Crowd: Overly docile for a punk show. Overheard In The Crowd: "That lady is doing the Soccer Mom dance!" Random Notebook Dump: Wire has the most unique guitars I've seen in awhile. For more photos: See our full slideshow by Erik Hess.

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