Gary Numan & Dirty Harry @ Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall – 30th November 2009

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There is no doubt about it, I am very excited to be at the Wulfrun Hall tonight for what promises to be an evening of electronic euphoria with Gary Numan celebrating the 30th anniversary of the release of ‘The Pleasure Principle’ album. However, before I can experience the glittering golden array of Gary’s back catalogue I must first endure the delights of Dirty Harry.

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Imagine if you will, a reasonable rock band with a platinum blonde front-woman who relishes writhing around on the floor, persistently preens her hair and gratuitously slaps her thighs throughout the entire set; which of course goes down relatively well but for me gets a little bit tiresome towards the end. I deduce it was all intended as part of the stage show but in my eyes not necessary because hip-wiggling and boob-thrusting aside, Harry actually has a fantastic voice. I feel it would give her ten times more credence, with male and female fans alike, if she toned down perpetually playing on her sexuality – although I suppose that would defeat the object of having ‘Dirty’ as a pre-fix to her moniker.

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Musically speaking there were displays of good quality guitar work from The Rev (ex-Prodigy) and a few anthemic style songs which I would suggest lyrically would appeal more to a late teen/early twenties audience of a rock/pop persuasion – good examples would be ‘Takes One to Know One’, ‘Dirty Boys and Girls’ and in my opinion one of their better tracks ‘Frayed at the Edges’.

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You can probably tell I was on edge, eagerly anticipating the arrival of the illustrious Mr Numan…and I certainly wasn’t the only one, the venue was full to the brim with a crowd who had been chanting “Numan, Numan” all evening! Thankfully, the lights eventually dimmed down with Gary and Co. opening up with instrumentals ‘Airlane’ and ‘Random’ accompanied by a simple yet dazzling light show, which even Jean Michel Jarre would have been proud of, but more importantly which sounded as pristine as the day they were first pressed onto vinyl!

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It seems Numan’s vision for the set-list on this tour was quite inspired – understandably there would be a hefty amount of tracks lifted from ‘The Pleasure Principle’ in an almost all electronic half which would be followed by an assortment of other tracks in a much more guitar-based second half. During the electronic section it was thrilling to hear ‘Engineers’ and ‘M.E.’ which was famously sampled by Basement Jaxx for ‘Where’s Your Head At?’. In a more poignant moment Gary also dedicated ‘Complex’ to the long gone Paul Gardiner saying “he was a good friend and I still miss him”, followed by the captivating ‘Conversation’ and of course the classic ‘Cars’. How is it possible for 30 years to have passed and these songs to still sound as fresh and contemporary as the day they were released? It truly is a testament to their creator.

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You might think the second half of the set might not necessarily appeal to the ye olde electronic Numan fan but the die-hard Numanoids were on good form as we entered what can only be described as the industrial segment. With increased frenetic activity on stage, emanating from the freedom of almost everyone breaking out from behind a keyboard and donning a guitar instead, Numan kicks off with ‘Pure’ and interestingly almost instantly appears to be in an enhanced, comfortable groove. Not that he seemed ill at ease in the initial section, just everything seems to crank up a notch on a powerful scale; the mood, the effervescent energy and if possible the vocals became more vibrant. We are led through an incredible portion of the set which included ‘Down in the Park’, ‘The Leather Sea’ and ‘Jagged’ before performing a stripped down pure piano-orientated adaptation of ‘Are Friends Electric’ before an excellent encore which included the worthy ‘We are so Fragile’.

As I leave this place, ringing with rapturous applause, I am certain I have been very privileged to witness a remarkable performance and am full of admiration for such an iconic figure. An artist who suffered no mercy at the hands of the music media all those years ago and in my opinion, has proven only the very best revolutionaries live through torture to come full circle and be revered.

Review – Amanda Jones
Photos – Ian Dunn

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