When Gary Numan arrives on stage at HQ in a flood of blue light, it’s not immediately apparent that Gary Numan has arrived on stage. Most of his band members are wearing a similar get-up to the man of the night, and the fact that they’re all in black doesn’t help with this initial effort toward differentiation. But with a wave to his audience, the cheers are quickly bestowed with greater conviction (and volume).
The cover of The Pleasure Principle, Numan’s 1979 album, is projected on the screen behind the band, and shows few differences between Numan in 1979 and Numan in 2011. His hair is a little less coiffured now but the heavy eyeliner remains the same.
The set predictably begins with ‘Airlane’, although the tracks from The Pleasure Principle are played out of order with few additions, until finally they get to ‘Cars’, or what might be affectionately known as ‘that Mighty Boosh song’ amongst some of the younger audience members.
There’s not a whole lot that’s special or out of the ordinary about the performance, and Numan’s minimal interaction with the audience make the gig not dissimilar to listening to The Pleasure Principle at home, although Numan’s rampant smiling (in a relative sense, anyway) throughout ‘Conversation’ makes it obvious that he’s very glad to be here.
But either way, the possibility of banter is not why people are here. It’s largely an exercise in nostalgia with spindly and thinning hair a staple in the crowd; it’s probably like Gen Y seeing Hanson or the Spice Girls, except less embarrassing.
The interesting thing about Gary Numan is that his music has to be placed in context in order to be fully appreciated. At a time when Kiss and Blondie were pervading the charts, Numan was offering something different, and although there are numerous bands since that have adopted similar sounds, what’s important to note is that they have indeed been adopted. From Numan.
With a tour billed as the performance of The Pleasure Principle in its entirety, it’s understandable that some simply expected a run through its ten tracks and when Numan and his band leave the stage having only performed the album and a couple of additional songs, much of the crowd assumes it’s over.
The techies leap onto the stage and start dismantling Numan’s synth, and the band returns to play a less electronic set, including ‘Down in the Park’ and ‘Haunted’. He ends the second half of his set with ‘Are Friends Electric’ and has the crowd punching the air and singing along.
Still on a high, they enthusiastically call Numan back to the stage and he delights his admirers with a three song encore, finishing with ‘I Die You Die’, inciting the audience to dance along and leave tired, but contented.
– Dunja Nedic