It may be the unfortunate truth that when you have a history as long as Gary Numan, many older fans only want to hear the songs they know. Numan’s last visit to Adelaide saw him play his synth pop milestone album The Pleasure Principle in its entirety. While it was a fantastic show, the 2011 gig was largely a nostalgia trip for many in the audience. Without the “drawcard” of playing an album they grew up with, a lot of those same fans seemed to stay home. This was unforgivable as Numan was at his absolute finest when he played Adelaide’s HQ Complex on Thursday night, delivering a show that outshone any other international gig I have seen this year – and there was not a hint of nostalgia to be found.
Through the darkness, and through the fuzzy, bleeping synths, Numan’s new army of talented musicians assembled on stage. Charming, flashing his cheshire-cat smile, Numan comes across quite congenial, as he belts out his somewhat gloomy lyrics to the sound of the world being torn apart.
With a burst of light and static, the blaringly-loud explosion of “Resurrection” transformed into the epic “I Am Dust”, off last years Splinter (Songs From a Broken Mind), and heralded the beginning of a magnificent set. Numan’s performance embodied his industrial persona and delivered something truly contemporary, with momentum and incredible energy. Dressed in black, Numan seemed at ease is his jeans, boots and t-shirt while his band looked like a stylish and beautiful gang of thugs. The whole image of the band was one of complete badass-ness.
Mention also needs to be made of the lighting, which added so much to the show. Numan had his movements timed down to the moment, pulling shapes that would make Vince Noir cry, as the strobe lights lit his face just long enough for us to see him posed like a photograph.
“We’re the Unforgiven”, “The Calling” and “Lost”, were just a few of the tracks off of Splinter in a set that largely focused on the new album. There were, however, a generous scattering of numbers from earlier albums, and a few beloved classics thrown into the mix. Crowd-pleaser “Cars” got everyone dancing, whilst “Metal”, (a song that has been covered brilliantly by Nine Inch Nails) was a treat to hear live. “Pure”, off of the 2000 album of the same name, sounded so unbelievably good played live, and loud.
“Down in the Park” was beautifully delivered with deep drones grinding out another heavy version which added a whole new level of depth to the sound of what is already a dark song. It is common for artists to present old material in new ways, but it is rare for them to improve on originals, which I think Numan did.
My heart gave a jolt of excitement when I realised that the moody, synth tones swirling through the venue were turning into “Are Friends Electric?”, a favourite from the Tubeway Army days. The re-worked version of the 1979 hit was completely outstanding, as he matched the wall-of-synth sound to the gritty mood of the rest of the set by dirtying it up a bit.
I assumed that would be the logical conclusion to the night, yet instead, Numan finished things up with the final track of the new album, “Love Hurt Bleed”. This final, pounding, bass-heavy number was delivered with vigour and cemented the gig as one of the most compelling, impressive and fine-tuned performances of any band I have seen ever.
Numan definitely deserved a larger crowd, but he can rest assured that every single person in the venue on Thursday night was blown away and will be talking about the gig for years to come.