Well, how the music scene goes through phases. You can be cool. Then incredibly uncool. Then go though a really tough time. And then, by hook and by crook, you’re sneakily cool again — almost Ã¼bercool when the right (currently) cool people cite you as a musical influence. And so to a Sunday night out in Wolverhampton in the Wulfrun. Here to see the proverbial introvert who’s followed this path over a thirty plus year career. A person who flatly refuses to give up; Mr Gary Webb — better known as industrial techno innovator Gary Numan.
Numan is one of those hidden giants of musical influence, cited by those from gothic rock (think Manson to Reznor), to alternative rock maestros the Foos and Queens of the Stone Age, through to his music being sampled by the likes of Basement Jaxx, Afrika Bamabaata Wu Tang Clan and, oh yes, the Sugarbabes.
This is Numan’s autumn tour to promote his new album ‘Dead Son Rising’, co-written and produced with collaborator of the last six years, Ade Fenton. Tonight’s Wulfrun gig is the fourth of seven dates. Support comes from Welshman Jayce Lewis — heavy dance rhythms crossed with industrial and tribal drumming. He could well be a rising star, having signed a 5 year record deal with EMI. Useless fact of the night is that he is promoted by Dave Prowse who’s most notable for playing Darth Vader in the original Star Wars films…
Numan is a busy man and this is the first of two simultaneously produced album (‘Splinter’ is due for release in 2012). Frontman of Tubeway Army (they signed to the legendary Beggar’s Banquet label in 1977) Numan was heavily inspired by glam rock, Bowie, and Phillip K Dick. He saw the potential of electronica in the time when CDs weren’t thought of, the mobile phone was a BT telephone kiosk and it was seven years before Apple released the Mac via their iconic 1984 ad. Playing with such gizmos in the punk era was a brave move, with Kraftwerk blazing the way while others like Depeche Mode, Soft Cell and OMD had just started dabbling. I remember watching Top of The Pops and performances of ‘Cars’ and ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric’. I also remember Numan as somewhat strange, distant, something about plane crashes and hair transplants. But during the nineties and noughties, he rebuilt his following, constantly recording. The rewards for the hard work came as the new wave of industrial and electronic acts noted him as inspirational, his tracks started being sampled left, right and centre. And then there was the massive Stateside hit with Fear Factory’s cover of ‘Cars’.
Even now, he still makes ‘announcements’ (currently something about emmigrating to the US). And as I reached my teenage years Numan’s commercial star had shone brightly and waned, and I have to say, while I latched onto others, Numan totally passed me by. So a chance tonight to see what I have missed out on….
Tonight’s reception is raucous, the lights go down, the crowd chant “Numan……Numan….. Numan.” So with digital screen backdrop, strobe lighting and a lot of dry ice — on he comes, accompanied to a slow, deep rhythmic pound and into ‘Resurrection’ / ‘Down in the Park.’ Great reception from the crowds — and the first of a handful of words — “Thank you.”
The backing rhythms are full industrial; think NIN, Manson, Rammstein, all of whom use this thumping to great effect. And his voice is still a Bowiesque nasal wail, which so clearly defined his hits of his early career. He still has the jet black hair and black eyeliner – he is still very, er, Gary Numan. With the dark rhythmic sound, he is well immersed in his music, with the occasional hands aloft to the crowd, and covers a range of songs from the years, including new tracks from the album — standout title track ‘Dead Son Rising’.
The crowd consists of a dedicated fan base — a devotee occasionally shouts “We love yow!” The main set is rounded off by ‘I Die: You Die’, the 1980 hit, which made number 6 in the singles charts. Lights up at the end of this set and we can see a smiley Numan — clearly well chuffed at the response.
Back on for the encore, and clearly what the audience have been waiting for, and it’s into ‘Cars’ a darker tubthumping version of the original, then into ‘My Shadow in Vain’ before completing with ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric’ — a reprise version — think NIN ‘Hurt’ with industrial power bass and drums for the chorus.
Numan is an introvert — his bubble is very much his own and he clearly enjoys and loves what he does, and that comes across. A man of few words to his audience — another ‘thank you’ at the end, for the listener you either love / hate or hate what he does. For those interested in the 80s revival scene he did play his key hits. But you should expect full on industrial power-thumping rock. And if you like this particular music scene, Numan very clearly does it on his own terms. His new stuff is sill current — take a listen via his site to see if you think he is worth a view — www.numan.co.uk. Once a fan you may well become a devotee.
Listening to all the plaudits, all the gushing expressions of inspiration, Numan really should be massive. And he certainly shows that the music scene does the rounds. And it is the resilience and independence and uniqueness brings him on stage tonight, a full thirty-four years after signing that piece of paper for Beggars Banquet. Fair play man.
1. Resurrection / Down in the Park
2. The Fall
4. When the Sky Bleeds
6. Big Noise Transmission
8. Dead Son Rising
9. Every Day I Die
10. We are The Lost
12. For the Rest of My Life
13. Noise Noise
14. Everything Comes Down to This
16. I Die You Die
18. My Shadow in Vain
19. Are ‘Friends’ Electric?
Jayce Lewis (2010)
Dead Sun Rising (2011)
Look out for: Splinter (2012)
Review – Zyllah Moranne-Brown
Photos – John Bentley