Fighting With Wire

The Derry trio wrap up their UK tour in the Camden Barfly

'We’re really sorry it’s taken so long,' says an apologetic frontman Cahir O’Doherty during the brutally triumphant final gig of Fighting With Wire’s UK tour. 'It’s been ages.'

It has indeed. The Derry muckers have been keeping a low profile of late. Almost three years since the release of debut album Man Vs Monster, the three-piece have spent most of their time bunkered in Nashville recording a follow-up with producer Nick Raskulinecz (Foo Fighters, Deftones).

Sporadic gigs around Northern Ireland and a lauded set at SXSW have punctuated what has no doubt been a year to remember for the trio. But if Nashville, the home of country, seems like an odd place to record an album of thrashing power pop, the Barfly in Camden is the perfect venue – intimate but loud as hell – to take in what turns out to be a typically powerful FWW performance.

Support act More Than Conquerors kick things off with a clutch of polished and impressively heavy dance rock tunes. The youthful looking Belfast rockers need ‘more cowbell’, Christopher Walken style, until the drummer belts the hell out of the last song. Excellent. Their sound could use a dash more scuzz and filth, but they’ll do just fine.

Whatever time has elapsed since I last saw FWW, not much appears to have changed. O'Doherty’s still a banter imp, drummer Craig McKean appears to have been chiselled out of the Sperrins while bassist Jamie King looks increasingly like a stocky version of Cyrus The Virus from Con-Air.

The set splits the difference between older cuts and new material, such as ‘Erase You’, which focus on what FWW do best: playful, strong hooks soaring above the punishing, earthquake inducing rhythm section.

The sizable London crowd need a little warming up. A touch of classic Derry slagging from O'Doherty always helps. Comparing their new album’s gestation to Guns n Roses' infamous Chinese Democracy, he deadpans: 'We had Slash drop in on the album, then Axel – though he went off in a huff. Then we had Pete Doherty… no wait, Carl Barat? Which one is the talented one again?’

Jibing at The Libertines to this crowd is preaching to the choir but it still goes down a treat. 'Seriously, if anyone owns a record by either of those two, please leave.' Of course no one does. The group still revel in the possibilities of the three-minute pop song format, played at breakneck pace and tight as a snare: it’s the musical equivalent of a comforting bowl of soup accompanied by a punch in the face.

The concluding one-two-three combo punch of ‘Sugar’, ‘Cut The Transmission’ and ‘Everyone Needs A Nemesis’ finally threaten to bring the house down. If things never quite catch fire, it’s not the fault of the band. They are as committed as ever. Perhaps the time away has caused the typically fickle London crowd to forget about the Northern Irish trio’s indelible power. But, with the release of album number two imminent in the New Year, tonight is a great reminder.

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