Gary Numan is the definition of a renaissance man. Huge star in the late 70’s, maligned in the 80’s and 90’s, industrial revolution in the noughties and all whilst battling personal afflictions and tragedy. He keeps coming back and seems to be enjoying the hell out of music more than ever.
Much of Gary Numan’s resurgence has stemmed from the quality of his output since, and including, 2000’s Pure. A string of industrially influenced dark records in the vein of Nine Inch Nails have rightly been at the forefront of Numan’s shows, but tonight is all about celebrating a rich history.
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of a touring career that has taken him around the world many times, Gary Numan and his army of fans sold out the ornate Albert Hall in Manchester as part of the (R)evolution tour.
A couple of more recent tracks make the cut but a cherry-picking of selections from usually sidelined albums become the highlights of a varied setlist that is delivered with a verve and tenacity you’d expect of such a seasoned professional.
My Name Is Ruin opens the show with Numan’s daughter by his side adding her mysterious vocals (she rejoins again mid-set for My Breathing). Their embraces at the end of the songs are so warm; just pure happiness on stage.
Metal and I Die: You Die raise the roof early doors and the hypnotic slow lament of Absolution is flanked by striking visuals of the squalid state of our world.
Hearing the lullaby like Stories was an early highlight with the stage decked out in glorious colour and a less dense sound to the rest of the night.
On many occasions, the guitar and bass intertwine on stage in pulverising fashion. It’s rib shaking. Here In The Black is one of Numan’s finest songs; his vocal delivery is sinister and the guitar/synth wall of noise that drives the song is wonderfully dystopian from his band.
Crowd patter from Numan is minimal, but the show is anything but minimal; seizure-inducing lights and mesmerising visuals complement the dense, glitchy soundscapes superbly.
There are the über hits; the familiar melody of Cars, a gigantic Are ‘Friends’ Electric, a slower tempo but nonetheless swirling Down In The Park and a heavy metal Metal. They go down well but they’re not the focal point. They’re a time to reminisce and enjoy; that first time you heard it; that first time you saw it etc. The whole show is made great due to the sum of its parts – not just the bigger tracks.
Frequent ‘Numan’ chants erupt in between songs; the adulation from the crowd is phenomenal. There is an awesome alchemy at Gary Numan concerts; one you struggle to find in today’s modern, technological age. Yes, people take pictures and such, but the connection between the audience and the artist is up there with the most devout of fan bases.
Me, I Disconnect From You keeps the mix of old and new flowing. It’s been given the modern Numan overhaul with chugging and heavy guitars. The synth intro and melody still has the crowd salivating if they’re not into the heavier side of things.
A Prayer For The Unborn is a heartbreaking punch to the gut considering the subject matter. Images of baby scans and the knowledge that Numan lost a child have the crowd in reverence as the twisted and tortured electric hymn penetrates the crowd. It has become one of his signature tunes since it’s release in 2000.
People reliving their teens, new fans of a harder sound, and those who love a bit of goth all greet each song like an old friend. The ovation as the closing strains of every single song ends is eardrum-shattering. It’s a privilege to be a part of the experience and seeing smiles all round from the crowd and the band.
Gary Numan: Online
Photography by Mike Ainscoe. You can find more of Mike’s work on the At The Barrier Facebook page.