Monday, 11 June 2012

The New Gary Numan

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….?

GaryNumanoutof10?   10!

here's what all the fuss is about.

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