This event formed part of the South Bank Centre's Ether festival, and found Githead supporting Krautrock über-legends Michael Rother and Dieter Möbius. Tonight, the band is augmented for only the second night by a drummer (presumably The Beat Monster has hung up his sticks). The new boy—Max Franken (of Malka Spigel's band Minimal Compact)—obviously done good; at the end of the penultimate track, Colin Newman flashed him a grin and a thumbs up at the end of said number's seemingly out of control, but no doubt meticulously mapped out, jam.
Arranged an a small unit in the centre of the stage, Robin 'Scanner' Rimbaud and Malka Spigel take stage left and right; a bespectacled Newman takes the centre. Spigel and Newman are dressed in black long-sleeved T-shirts and baggy trousers; Rimbaud goes for a tight-fitted T-shirt, while our straggly-haired drummer breaks ranks altogether. They don't use visuals. They don't use synths. They play ten tracks, some culled from the Headgit EP, some from the forthcoming album, Profile.
As per Headgit, they open with the instrumental Reset, which in turn unfolds into Fake Corpses. An audience member announces that she can't hear Newman's vocal, which makes the next song's 'chorus' of "It's always one thing or another" very appropriate. One of the new tracks, Alpha, it is a prowling, aggressive track that intensifies as it progresses.
After another audience member yells "Oi!" from the back, Githead glide into the dubby bass and digitally-augmented drums of To Have And To Hold, which is followed by another new track—Cosmology For Beginners—this one featuring a spat, deadpan vocal from Newman; "so make your feelings known," he sings. After the song slides to a halt, Rimbaud announces "I normally use a computer ...and the string's broke. So I'll just ask uncle Colin..." Newman and Spigel look concerned, as if expecting this to happen; Rimbaud only played guitar live for the first time in 2004. After about thirty seconds, Rimbaud confirms "We're going to swap guitars," while strapping on Newman's guitar. "It's like the end of a football match where they swap shirts... It's like wearing someone else's trousers." "That's what you tell all the girls," Newman retorts, strapping on his small, black guitar, a regular feature of Wire concerts, and they kick into Craft Is Dead.
Another new track (Option Paralysis), a long and occasionally vociferous track with vocals that recall Wire's Silk Skin Paws. An instrumental number follows, Antiphon, featuring a deep, dub bassline from Spigel. The edgy, cyclical Profile is delivered precisely, and the set concludes with another new one (Raining Down) on which Malka sings lead, the guitar threesome also feeding in long, fuzzy, 'dugga dugga dugga' sections.
On my way out of the Queen Elizabeth Hall's concrete shell, someone remarked "same riff as Newman's always played". Whatever—it's still just as effective. Sleek, honed, calculated and sharp—and brilliant.
Mat Smith, Documentary Evidence
On a chilly evening in March 2005, nearly 30 years after Wire played the Roxy, Githead are playing at Queen Elizabeth Hall in London. Their music is both dense and fluid, a guitar-driven soundscape filled with sudden dead drops into plangent passages of seemingly twilit drama. It's an effortlessly bravura set, the shimmering, suspenseful depth of the music underpinned by a trace of defiantly infectious, European pop sensibility.
Michael Bracewell, Art Review
'Where worlds collide' is the Ether Festival's enticingly dramatic tagline, its optimistic remit being to produce excitement from the clash of disparate creative approaches and disciplines. There is plenty on this year's bill to stimulate the senses, though whether an agenda as nebulous as that suggested by the event's name can accommodate a cohesive season of performances is a debatable point.
Githead are in comparison furiously concentrated, mining a single seam with impressively grim determination. A relaxed onstage demeanour cannot mask the epigrammatic bitterness of Colin Newman's vocals or the terse punch of Malka Spigel's dub bass. Guitarist Robin Rimbaud is still considerably more awkward on his instrument than he is behind a laptop, but is wiry scrawl is far more convincing than it was in the group's early performances. He even breaks a string—though he blows the moment in the rock 'n' roll sun somewhat by having to ask ‘Uncle Colin' to tune his replacement guitar.
Interestingly, perhaps because of their place on a vaguely Kosmische-themed bill, their music takes on a different character tonight, and their updated version of Chairs Missing-era Wire and the grittier end of Krautrock are made explicit. Githead's music is so tightly focused on its core elements that it develops a dynamic of tension and release by the very fact there there is no tension and release, an approach mastered by Neu!
Keith Moliné, The Wire