Review by Tony Gaskin, photos by Laura Patterson
30 something years ago I came across a young band who were supporting The Lurkers I think it was, and although I liked their punky glam rock looks and their catchy songs I didn’t think that they’d “make it” so to speak. That band was Tubeway Army and about 18 months later “Are Friend’s Electric” went to No1 and the rest, as they say, is history.
I’ve seen Gary Numan perform many times since then, from his euphoric rise as the master of the Synth Pop Generation through his less commercial releases of the 90’s and early 00’s, to his resurgence in popularity in recent years with big names from all genres citing him as a major influence. His latest offering “Splinter” is getting great reviews and is widely regarded as his best material for a while. Heavy synth layers coupled with fierce guitar riffs project a dark industrial sound that have echoes of his early years but feel current and fresh. The tour is to promote the new album, but expect a show full of back catalogue favourites.
Opening tonight’s show are Losers. Strange moniker to give your band, but it does create banter with the crowd who shout out the obvious chant of “Losers! Losers!” Between songs. Not knowing what to expect from them live, I’d kept an open mind as the only tracks I’d heard previously had been a tad too dance orientated for my tastes, but the new Pledge funded album was promised to be more aggressive, and the live set certainly put that across.
Guitar heavy with ferocious drum and bass backing, the synths play a more complementary role and I was pleasantly surprised. An entertaining set was brought to a climax with the stunning track “Azan”, definitely one to watch out for.
As is Numan’s habit these days, he personally picks just the one band to tour with him, so we didn’t have long to wait for the main event. The visual part of Numan’s shows has always been a big part of the act and as the house lights dim the bank of screens at the rear of the stage show the word “Splinter” in a shaky hand writing style, and the band walk on to kick off the show with the short intro “Resurrection” before diving straight into the new album with “I Am Dust”
The man is a consummate performer and he never fails to put on a well rehearsed, slick show. The band are great musicians in their own right, but all eyes are on the Numan who, off stage is a shy, private person, but strap on his old faithful Gibson and put a mic in front of him, and he comes alive, giving everything he’s got.
The set list is a reflection of his long career, but the old tracks like “Down In The Park” and “Metal” fit comfortably alongside the likes of “Pure” “Love, Hurt, Bleed” and “Splinter”. Biggest cheers and sing-a-longs are of course saved for “Cars” and “Are Friends Electric”, but the large crowd of predominantly 40 somethings are amongst some of the most die-hard fans you’ll ever come across and the new songs are well received.
So does 35 years and 21 albums qualify someone as a music icon? Many will say yes, and just as many will say no, but that’s always been the way with Gary Numan and I’m sure he wouldn’t want it any other way.
The Tour comes to Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall on the 19th November
See more of Laura’s pics here: