On a balmy June evening, a full Leamington Assembly plays host to a one-off Gary Numan show ahead of the release of his forthcoming album, ‘Splinter’ in October and eagerly anticipated November tour. Numan’s story is one of legend; a meteoric rise to fame with Tubeway Army’s “Are Friends Electric” and as a solo artist in the tail end of the seventies and beginning of the eighties with tracks such as “Cars”, “I Die, You Die”, “We Are Glass” et al. The rest of the 80s became a rollercoaster ride of fame and (some mis)fortune up to the late 90s where Numan finally began to receive some long overdue critical acclaim for his work.
Numan pushed back into the limelight with covers and sampling of his music and collaborations with acts such as Nine Inch Nails and Battles which has opened Numan up to a much wider audience over the last fifteen years. Numan has now celebrated 30 years in the business and has a fiercely loyal and often obsessive fanbase. There are not many artists around who can command that level of love and loyalty from their fans. If you want to read more, check out Steve Malins’ biography, ‘Praying to the Aliens.’
Tonight’s support is Jayce Lewis, a multi-talented musician hailing from Bridgend in South Wales with his band. Jayce has been around since 2008, and had a rapid rise thanks to a high level of interest from MTV and VH1. Following the VH1 Global Express Tour, Lewis got a recording deal with EMI. Lewis’ first ever tour was supporting Numan on his “Dead Son Rising” tour of 2011 and was particularly well received by Numan, who is quoted as saying; “He’s been one of the best and most loved acts I’ve ever had out on the road with me.” Praise indeed!
Lewis appears on stage with his band and launches into 40 odd minutes of dark and heavy synth/guitar and drum-based tracks with “Perfect Def”. “Are you ready for Mr Gary f***ing Numan?” he booms in a deep, almost drawling Welsh accent as he stands on a flight case towering over the audience. The crowd respond with chants of “Nuuuuuuumaaan” which of course, is customary at a Numan show. The sound is relentless through the set and lit with strobes, Lewis throws himself around the stage like a man possessed.
“Wrath” is announced as a track off the new album which features Roger Taylor, for which he gets a big “Thanks Roger”. The band end with “Icon”, Lewis’ first single. Jayce Lewis and band is well worth watching out for in the future.
The obligatory “Nuuuuuuumaaan” chants are repeated over and over before the main set begins. The Numan set opens with “Films”, from “Pleasure Principle”, the track has plenty of synth and a minimal vocal which allows Numan to warm up with plenty of head banging and swinging around the stage. “The Fall” from “Dead Son Rising” follows, using “The Officer’s” remix, with “Pleasure Principle’s” “Metal” instrumental track, pure synth heaven as Numan struts and around the stage like he owns it. It’s getting hot and Numan pours water over his face to cool down. “Everything Comes Down to This”, a new track from the forthcoming “Splinter” album, is then followed by “Pure” and “Replicas” with another “Splinter” track, “I Am Dust”.
The “Splinter” album is long awaited and the songs played are well developed with Numan’s own unique style, having been played live for quite a while… you just know it’s a Numan song. It’s got synth, it’s got metal, and it’s got guts. Numan doesn’t converse much with the audience, but he’s grinning from ear to ear throughout the set. This being his first outing in a few months, he’s clearly enjoying being back on stage.
“Down in the Park” gets plenty of cheers and is lit with powerful bright columns of light, and goes out with a piano solo. “Are Friends Electric” concludes the set and gets the biggest applause of the night so far, beginning with the piano intro rather than the heavy synth, and Numan’s voice almost whispering the lyrics, then opening up into the huge anthem and taking it right back down again to the whispered lyrics and quiet outro.
After a moment’s rest, and much “Nuuuumaaan” chanting the band return for the encore, complete with video camera filming Numan shortly before disappearing off stage. With a quick “Thank you” the burbling synth of “Cars” kicks in with “Halo” and “A Prayer for The Unborn” taking us to the “I Die, You Die” finale, with the light columns flashing wildly and Numan leading the audience clapping away.
Tonight’s set has been a mix of old and new, with some of the older songs given some different treatment than their 1979 versions, but all much loved by the audience, and at £27.50 for a night of classic Numan I’ll have it. Numan may have left the UK, but he’s not left the fans behind, they’re with him all the way.
2. Perfect Def
3. Severe Sever
4. Electric Medicine
3. The Fall (Officers Remix)
5. Everything Comes Down to This
8. I Am Dust (New)
9. Down in the Park
11. We’re the Unforgiven (New)
12. When the sky bleeds
13. Love Hurt Bleed
15. Are Friends Electric?
18. A Prayer for the Unborn
19. I Die, You Die
Pictures and Review: Ken Harrison