Gary Numan @ O2 Institute, 19th October 2019

Gary Numan @ O2 Institute, 19th October 2019Gary Numan @ O2 Institute, 19th October 2019Gary Numan @ O2 Institute, 19th October 2019Gary Numan @ O2 Institute, 19th October 2019Gary Numan @ O2 Institute, 19th October 2019Gary Numan @ O2 Institute, 19th October 2019Gary Numan @ O2 Institute, 19th October 2019Gary Numan @ O2 Institute, 19th October 2019

You’d be hard pressed to find an artist with the kind of career Gary Numan has had since his emergence as a pop icon at the turn of the 1980s. Pioneering electronic-based music before weathering a decline in fortunes and reinventing himself and heading in a more gothic industrial rock direction, Numan returned to the top end of the charts with his most recent album ‘Savage (Songs From A Broken World)’. On this run of dates, to celebrate 40 years since Numan first hit the road, he looks back on his journey so far.

There’s no place to start like the present and recent single ‘My Name Is Ruin’ opens up the evening with all the hallmarks of Numan’s latter-day output – atmospheric and distorted but with an anthemic chorus and unmistakable vocals. From there it’s a jump back to his “classic” era with 1980’s ‘Remind Me To Smile’ receiving a huge reaction before stepping back even further in time to his debut single with Tubeway Army, ‘That’s Too Bad’, a curveball in its punkish simplicity which sees Numan on additional guitar. It’s almost as if the beginning of the set is designed to showcase as many different styles as possible, with the slower electronic ‘Stories’ immediately following before old classic ‘Metal’ is given a new lease of life with fuzzy guitars that help the track live up to its name. In fact, Numan’s backing band are a big part of the increased energy on stage, especially on the beefier tracks like ‘Down In The Park’ and the classic ‘Cars’, although it must be said Gary is still an extremely captivating frontman capable of moving very sprightly onstage. 

On the darker industrial sound of ‘Here In The Black’, Numan whispers the verse before jagged guitars kick in. ‘Love Hurt Bleed’ shows signs of influence from Rammstein as well as Nine Inch Nails, themselves heavily inspired by Numan’s early work. It’s perhaps because of this mutual pooling of ideas that after 40 years the set still feels fresh.As the main set ends the crowd sings along to the synth lines on ‘Are Friends Electric?’ the amount of love in the room is evident. Chants of “Numan! Numan!” ring out ahead of the encore, which again sees us revisit the very early days for ‘My Shadow In Vain’ before we’re treated to a sneak preview of new track ‘Intruder’, which Numan jokes will appear on his upcoming “country and folk inspired new album…” before grinning and adding “over my dead body!” Finally, after taking the time to genuinely thank the crowd for sticking by him over the years, the set ends on an acoustic note with the David Bowie-esque ‘Jo The Waiter’, a nice way to bring the set full circle. Support comes from Los Angeles electronic producer Kanga, who ticks a lot of boxes you’d perhaps expect from a Gary Numan support slot. With the stage clouded by smoke she twists around to harsh electronic beats, only occasionally illuminated by strobe lights. As far as creating an atmosphere goes it’s a huge success, but the set suffers from Kanga’s vocals being so low in the mix that they’re barely audible, which when combined with the fact that it’s difficult to actually see what’s happening onstage makes things a bit confusing for the audience. Things come together in time for set-closer ‘Vital Signs’, during which Kanga picks up a stage light and sings into it, but on the whole it’s a challenging performance that doesn’t quite have the final spark. 





Review: Ian Paget

Photo: Ian Dunn

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