Trying to figure out the best way to spend my self-imposed monthly allowance for new music, I quite luckily stumbled across this album going for a wallet-busting $30. Being an avid Wire fan now for a mere (but important) six years, I had to reshelve the new Q and Not U and the latest Pretty Girls Make Graves albums that I had intended to buy. Because I had only heard that this release existed, I wasn't sure exactly what to expect in terms of sound quality. Going at a bootleg price, I was concerned that it was one of those half-assed "live" albums released mostly by foreign labels (that are theoretically not governed by our copyright laws), in which either neighboring discussions can be heard with more clarity than the actual band or the worshipping screams are so loud that the overall sound clamors, overbearing the music. Realizing that EMI was behind this extremely hard-to-find release, I figured that a major label (especially one that is now the home to David Coverdale and Garth Brooks, though also to Neu! and Kraftwerk back in the day) would not risk their potential profit if it was of poor quality.
I first heard Wire while at another audiophile's house. He was in the middle of one of his listen-to-my-record-collection ambushes (of which I'm sure I've been an instigator in my own right, imposing my musical tastes upon unwilling, yet appeasing, friends) when I reluctantly sat back to absorb yet another record — it was Wire's Chairs Missing (which garnered a coveted 5-star rating from allmusic). I was instantly hooked and Wire quickly became in my eyes one of the greatest rock bands ever to don instruments. So you can imagine my surprise in coming across this album!
The disc begins with several selections from their infamous first show at London's The Roxy on April 1, 1977, a set that was part of a punk festival documented by EMI for the Roxy London WC2 compilation. While Lowdown and 12XU were included on the compilation, others (in addition to the two included on the comp) were remixed, rerecorded, and put out on Wire's first album, the universally praised Pink Flag release (another 5-star endeavor). There were five additional tracks that Wire played at that gig that had not been released before Behind the Curtains. Though their musical inexperience — only Newman and (early member) George Gill had experience with their instruments at the time of the Roxy gig — was not fully apparent on Pink Flag, it is fairly evident on the Roxy tracks. The best of the live bunch is Wire's cover of J.J. Cale's After Midnight, an emotionally-charged, frantic number rendering lead singer Colin Newman's lyrics nearly incomprehensible. The other four, including the amusing Mary is a Dyke and the raucous Too True, are piercing three-chord numbers that, taken alone, are not groundbreaking. Viewed in the greater context of Wire's accomplishments, however, they not only are significant in revealing the band's roots, but also are simply good punk rock songs whose raw energy is one factor that makes this release compelling.