Friday 23 March 2018

Live: Gary Numan – Foundry, Sheffield 21/03/2018


Not only is electronic music innovator Gary Numan supporting one of his strongest albums to date in the form of 'Savage: Songs From A Broken World', but this tour of the UK also coincides with his 60th birthday. And as he proves at tonight's show at Sheffield Student Union's Foundry venue, is still creating and performing with the best of them.

First onto the stage though is LA's Nightmare Air. Local to Gary now that he has relocated to the city of angels, this three-piece mix new wave, shoegaze and alt rock into a fairly serviceable if overall bland end product. Meek female vocals and conviction-less emotive male screeches are set against a decent-enough combination of new wave bass, shoegaze guitar, and very modern dance-friendly electronics.

Given Numan's now 20-odd year embrace of heavier industrial rock these seem like an odd choice as a support group, perhaps more to ease-in the older members of the audience who are in attendance to hear a few cuts from 'Replicas'. Nevertheless their set is fairly well received even though the most memorable part will be trying to remember exactly what they did.

As Numan and his band take to the stage, it is hard to believe that a man with his much energy and stage presence is 60 years old now. His voice still sounds great and he moves around the stage with more conviction than performers half his age. It's a good job though as the set draws mainly from his three most recent, and heaviest albums 'Savage...', 'Splinter...', and 'Dead Son Rising'.

From the opening of 'Ghost Nation', through tracks such as 'The Fall', 'Bed Of Thorns', 'Here In The Black', 'Mercy', 'Love Hurt Bleed', 'My Name Is Ruin' and 'When The World Comes Apart' the band passionately power through while Numan gives each track his all. He's no stranger to retrospective tours as we've seen in recent years, but synthpop is in his past and tonight's performance shows that heavy industrial rock is very much his presence and future.

That isn't to say there isn't room for a bit of nostalgia as rockier re-workings of 'Metal', 'Down In The Park', 'Cars', and 'Are 'Friends' Electric?' are still undoubted highlights. And even after nearly 40 years, Numan still has the passion to sing those songs and integrate them into his newer material.
With 'Are 'Friends' Electric?' finishing up the main body of the set it's a puzzle to second guess what will make up the encore. For this Numan delves into the fairly recent past with 'A Prayer For the Unborn' from 'Pure' and 'My Last Day' from 'Splinter...'. Unexpected but very poignant and effective closers.

Numan shows once again he is still at the cutting edge of music and has the ability to bring that music to life in a dynamic and passionate live performance. For anyone that thinks he is an artefact of the early 80s a performance like tonight's would be a massive shock to the system. Numan can still create great music and perform with the best of them.

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