I thought Muse were the new Gary Numan, the natural successors to his throne. Until recently that is. Little did I know, Gary Numan is the new Gary Numan.
I made my way to my first Gary Numan gig with caution. Being in my mid 40s, I’ve seen a few old heroes in recent years whose music just doesn’t sound relevant or exciting anymore. And I left those gigs feeling a bit sad. I’ve always thought the point in experiencing music live was to be excited by it. Otherwise, why not listen at home? I was aware that he had become darker and more industrial sounding in the years following his biggest commercial success, but that had largely slipped under my radar. I also wondered how my old favourites -Down in the Park, We are Glass, Are Friends Electric?- would sound. With a mixture of excitement and trepidation I opened the door to catch my first glimpse and make sense of the pulsating beats I had heard as I climbed the stairs.
Dressed in black from head to toe, naturally and with a magnificent stage presence, Gary Numan live was already a sight to behold. I admit to letting out a little scream, my initial reaction being much more powerful than I had expected. I watched, at times mesmerised. He was graceful, lithe and feline, in turns reminding me of Bono and Dave Gahan. Even although I found it difficult to take my eyes from him, I couldn’t help but notice the band. Young, gifted and dressed in black would sum them up in a sentence. For me, they were so much more; two keyboard players straddled the drummer, as usual, making up the rear guard. It thrilled me to see one of the keyboard players so engrossed, I could feel his excitement as he gyrated, waiting for his intro. The bassist, stage right of course, was a vision. Tall, black skinny jeans & cravat, replica Numan hair and radiating cool; that young man plucked and slapped his bass like it was a lover. I suspect you only get that good, that young, if you’ve spent your formative years locked in your bedroom caressing your guitar. In my head, he learned his craft listening to Numan records. Collectively, they sounded exceptional.
Whether by accident or design, the sound levels were perfect for me. I believe the technical team knew just how to hit the musical nail right on the head for our 40-something ears. And Numan bravely kept his microphone loud enough to ensure he was the main event. I wanted to hear him, really hear him, and I wasn’t’ disappointed. His dramatic, emotional, strong voice sounded as good as it did on vinyl some 30 years ago. The overall effect was a wall of sound so sophisticated I could pick up every note.
But what really blew me away was the way he has evolved his sound to construct live music that you only get to hear on really special occasions. I wondered how his softer, synthesiser-driven early stuff would translate next to the meatier, ‘down and dirty’ newer creations. What Numan and his band delivered was a blistering set of songs, with only us old fans being able to distinguish the old from the new. They have turned Down in the Park, Cars & We are Glass into brand new songs with a sound I would describe as Kraftwerk meets The Foo Fighters. And then, in a masterstroke, they closed with Are Friends Electric? What started with a very slow, quiet, electronic intro unleashed into a frenzied but precise chorus of heavy, bass driven, thumping noise that made me and I suspect just about everyone else, gasp. He smiled, waved an accomplished salute and was gone. Sometimes, just sometimes, you’re lucky enough to experience music in a way that is so powerful you can feel it inside. Gary Numan, I salute you right back.
I would bet my last bottle of black nail varnish that Matt Bellamy fantasises about being Gary Numan. Why wouldn’t he….?
Today I led a chant of penis & vagina with a bunch of 80+ teachers. Let me explain. For my paid work, I promote health and wellbeing in schools and I had the pleasure of chatting to a whole school about being more confident to teach young people about sex. Part of being confident is being able to say the words out loud, without passing out in front of the students. And we all know, practise makes perfect. Some of the teachers were less than impressed when they realised I was serious about the chant. I wish I'd recorded it for my blog. And it got worse... One of the sex lessons for students in third year (who are 14...) is teaching them how to put a condom on properly. Yes, teachers have to show giggling teenagers how to cover an erection safely. For this purpose, I first have to show them, using a condom demonstrator. That's code for a big blue rubber erection. I would've included a picture of said rubber erection but I didn't want to be too graphic, too soon. Use your imagination - it's like a penis, only bigger. I've been doing this for many years and am virtually immune to embarrassment - just as well. My favourite part of the day was a written comment from one of the staff, an overheard conversation between two 12 year olds who had just been doing their puberty lesson.
On discussing the female anatomy and the term vagina, one boy says to his chum. "I think I saw one of those". The other boy said "Wow, was it nice!"