Tuesday 26 November 2013

Live: Gary Numan – Roundhouse, London

Roundhouse, London
16th November 2013 

It seems that a lot has changed in Gary Numan's life in recent years. Relocation to LA, and an increasing opening up to his fans, firstly through social media: followers of his Twitter account were invited to his personal family photo album as he travelled across the US with his wife, kids and a horse-sized dog. His daughters even appeared in the music video to his latest single, 'Love Hurt Bleed'. New album 'Splinter' continues this trend being exceptionally personal and soul-baring, and sonically powerful and anthemic. All of which raised expectations and curiosity to witness New Man Numan live.

The change is visible even before he walks onstage, as the lights go down and what looked like metal scaffolding seconds beforehand turns out to be a massive electronic led display, simultaneously connecting to Numan's tradition of futuristic, sci-fi stage settings throughout the years, and placing it in the here and now. Then he appears. Looking fit, invigorated, hungry, assuming full command of stage and crowd immediately. This has always been his natural habitat, but there is truly a sense of resurrection. The songs from 'Splinter' are perfectly balanced between Numan's industrial guitar sound of the recent decade and a half and the searing, beaming, trademark synth sound. The result is scintillating, almost shocking.

Numan is cavorting all over the place like a 20-year-old, giving it his all, light years away from his past aloof distance or pouting superstar persona. This is a real and as tangible as it gets. The old songs integrate seamlessly, classics like 'Metal', 'Down in the Park' and 'I Die You Die' all getting massively aggressive treatments. Without any theatrics bar the aforementioned light show, the forcefulness of delivery often equals that of Rammstein or NIN, Numan serving as Godfather asserting his hegemony. The aforementioned current single, which in its studio version sounds as if Numan momentarily fronted Curve (yes that's a good thing indeed), contends with the classics with its rousing dance chorus. 

However, tonight is not just about muscle-flexing, but about a full emotional spectrum, as evident with the rendition of 'Lost', probably Numan's purest, most naked ballad ever, during which he wells up and breaks into tears. When an artist gives everything, he gets everything back. The Roundhouse is in absolute rapture. Coming back for encore with 'Cars' and 'Are 'Friends' Electric?', Numan seems to be enjoying delivering these two eternal crowd-pleasers more than ever. This becomes all the more poignant as he changes the lyrics of one spoken line in 'Electric', gesturing towards us and saying “you see this means everything to me”. Spine-chilling. And if that wasn't enough, Numan concludes by reminding us he is a contemporary musician and not a nostalgia act by choosing to cap tonight's set with 'My Last Day', 'Splinter's magnificently melancholy closer. Unforgettable.

Avi Pitchon

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