7 December 2012
It’s cold outside… but nice and cosy warm in The Forum, where the throng of Numanoids, all wonderfully resplendent in black, have gathered to hear the music from the master. While the intro music plays the anticipation and tension mounts. Crys of “NuuuuuuMaaaaan!” ring out around the venue. Then suddenly the lights go out and a massive roar goes up from the crowd as the stage set is revealed. Two synthesizer players sit either side of a drum kit surrounded by their keyboards, all three atop a platform that has cold white lights shining from inside. This design reminded me a little of his ’79 Living Ornaments set, and it was perfectly in keeping because tonight we were treated to a bit of old school Numan.The set opens with The Pleasure Principal classic “Films” – and what a way to begin. It’s that Numan synth sound that hits you the most; you know the one I mean, the high-pitched synthetic string sound that was his trademark in the early days. It just kind of gets you, and during the song I realised that no one else really quite sounds like Numan; he is a one-off pioneer. Tonight his sound leans on that classic ’79-’82 feel far more than the last couple of times I saw him a few years back where he had heavy metal-ised/industrialised his back catalogue to make it sound a little more gothic.
But tonight was also not just going to be a run through the old hits either. Tracks from the new Splinter album were performed with vigour and some wonderful background videos as well. The strength of the new material like “Petals” and “For You” were extremely high and proves beyond doubt that Gary can still knock out some great music and is certainly not one of those redundant ’80s artists just relying on his back catalogue. The new songs have a darker gothic edge to them, but still have remnants of that classic unmistakable Numan sound. Gary also still knows how to work his audience, and he throws himself around the stage and hangs on to his microphone stand in the best punk/Bowie fashion, a true showman who you can’t take your eyes off of while he’s performing.Coming near to the end of his set we are treated to a marvellous version of “Down in the Park”, and I have to say I’ve not heard it sound quite so powerful before. The synths cut through the air like an aircraft taking off and both the bass and guitars played their heart out. When “Cars” is played, its metronomic beat makes the audience dance. Now at most gigs when someone plays their biggest hit the audience may well chant along to the lyrics they know so well. Things are a bit different at a Gary Numan show, as it’s not often a whole audience chants a synth part instead. But all hands were held aloft pointing towards the stage and a mighty cry of “Wooower” along to the synth line of the classic “Are Friends Electric” fills the air around The Forum. Then Gary’s final song of the evening is a blistering performance of “I Die You Die” that certainly added new life to this great track.
Numan is a great performer – he neatly organises his set lists to incorporate old favourites along with new material to make his live shows still a living breathing organic beast rather than a redundant museum of songs. It was wonderful though to hear some of those old songs played with that classic Numan sound that made lots of us in 1979 prick up our ears and stare in awe at the weird alien creature singing about men in grey hats with cigarettes. Long may he continue to make such damn fine music; now I just hope that when I get home the paint hasn’t peeled off my walls…
-Words: Gary Parsons-
-Pictures: Emerson Tan-