For over 43 years, Gary Numan has fascinated audiences with his robot-like persona. Part innovator, part plagiarist, Numan has been an icon of electronic music since his chart toping single “Are Friends Electric” came out in 1979. He is a very different artist from those early days, the first few singles and albums feel stripped back compared with the dramatic cinematic industrial monolithic masterpieces he performs now. Numan’s latest album “Intruder” was released last year to critical acclaim and his 20 date UK tour gives him the opportunity to play it live in front of his faithful fans before he heads to Europe and the U.S.A. later in the year. The O2 Academy in Glasgow was the 10th date of the tour, and the packed crowd were in for a treat.
It must have been a daunting prospect for any artist to open for Gary Numan. Divine Shade however, embraced the prospect and were a great choice. The dark electronic trio from France had the courage of their convictions and endorsed by Numan himself, they certainly turned out to be the perfect warm up act. Their latest E.P. has had a track remixed by Chris Vreena, the Grammy winning producer who has played with Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson. There’s a definite NIN comparison and visually, Singer/ Guitarist Ren Toner does wrestle his mic stand in a similar fashion to Trent Reznor and not unlike Gary Numan himself. The 30 min set, which saw Ren move between Guitar and keyboards, flew by as the electronic ensemble played through a tight set which included 2 tracks off their latest E.P. and a few numbers from their 2014 E.P. “From the Sky”. Highlight of the set for me was “Ashes”. Drummer, Emile Cases, looked like a cross between Assassin’s Creed and a monk as he wore his hoody up for the first three songs before he discarded it. In stark contrast, Nicolas Thonnerjeux seemed to enjoy the limelight as he constantly threw Rockstar guitar shapes throughout the set. Final song “Black Birds Return” went down well with the busy crowd as the band slipped off stage talking well deserved plaudits.
Gary Numan’s symbiotic relationship with synthesisers and his peers has resulted in the summation of his efforts being realised on this tour. Numan has had an incredible influence on many bands as the genre has grown and expanded as it grew in popularity in the 90’s. There was an industrial/metal morphosis with many bands and Numan has also drawn inspiration from those artists who found him to be a catalyst for their creativity. The heavy industrial slant that has been adopted throughout his back-catalogue has given a new lease of life to his earlier songs. The band filtered on stage in darkness and took up their regular stage positions in anticipation of Gary Numan making his entrance. It’s not long until he breezed on stage to a huge cheer.
The set kicked off with “Intruder”, the title track from the latest album. Gary is beset on both sides by similarly dystopian dressed band members Steve Harris on Guitar and Tim Slade on Bass. The stage visuals are suitably cinematic, and the dramatic darkness sets the perfect scene. With a backdrop of projected imagery, there’s plenty going on without the all-consuming music. The set has an impressive number of songs on rotation which is a treat for those fans who have been able to attend a few of the live dates. The tracks from the new album suitably blended with the older material which has been overhauled from its original guise. “Metal” was an early highlight as “The Pleasure Principle” would feature three songs including the iconic “Cars”. Another hit for Numan which re-energised him when he famously joined Nine Inch Nails on stage in 2009 to perform his hit single. Numan has used middle eastern music to influence his sound and the tracks played from his 2018 album “Savage” sounded particularly dramatic. “Ghost Nation” was HUGE! Numan’s voice hung in the ether between crashing drums and edgy synths played by Dave Brooks. Numan also provided additional keys throughout the night. The second track from “Savage” which was sung by Gary and his daughter Persia on backing vocals on the album, but alas, no sign of her tonight. “My Name is Ruin” maintained the drama before the next track from “Splinter” followed. The live drumming makes a massive difference to electronic music. Apart from the obvious visual attraction, the human intervention is essential, and Richard Beasley anchored the songs and gave the man/machine interface credibility.
The massive sounding synths in “Love Hurt Bleed” reverberated throughout the audience as the east meets west soundscape sounded like dark delirium. Numan once said he felt “dirty” when he played his older songs and “needed” a shower after it and he’ll need plenty showers after this tour as his sometimes-fractured relationship with his fans has healed. He’s struck a good balanced slotting in the older tunes to keep the hard-core happy. The main set came to a resounding close with “We Are Glass” from his “Telekon” album released 42 years ago but it sounded far from dated. The 2-song encore continued with another from that seminal album, “I Die: You Die” and there could be only one song to end where it all began. “Are Friends Electric”. The world may be broken and although Numan might not be able to repair it, he certainly keeps its inhabitants entertained. The prophetic poem given to him by his daughter Persia when she was 11 inspired him to write his latest album, let’s hope that relationship continues because there’s still an audience for it and we can only hope that artists like Gary Numan can educate and inspire future generations.
Gary Numan continues to Tour throughout May and June:
14th – UK, Northampton, Royal & Derngate
15th – UK, Norwich, UEA
16th – UK, Nottingham, Rock City
18th – UK, Manchester, Albert Hall
20th – UK, Sheffield, O2 Academy
21st – UK, Belfast, Ulster Hall
24th – Ireland, Dublin, Olympia Theatre
26th – The Netherlands, Amsterdam, Melkweg
27th – Denmark, Aarhus, Train
29th – Denmark, Copenhagen, Amager Bio
30th – Norway, Oslo, John Dee
31st – Sweden, Malmo, Kulturbolaget
2nd – Germany, Berlin, Columbiahalle
7th – France, Paris, Le Cabaret Sauvage
10th – Spain, Madrid, Sala But
11th – Spain, Barcelona, Razzmatazz Room 2
13th – Belgium, Brussels, Ancienne Belgique
Photos by Raymond Thomson @Punk_4RT