Live Review: Gary Numan (Southampton Guildhall, 09/12/11)

This is a live review of Gary Numan’s 9th December 2011 performance, written on 10th December for AUDIO ADDICT.

Gary Numan

1979 saw Gary Numan have two number-one singles, but since then he has trickled down the charts. Still, he can still pack an impressive crowd. Quite a few members of the audience are clad in leather jackets featuring several irrelevant, purposeless buckles. There is also enough eyeliner plastered on their faces of the crowd that it resembles half of the world population of pandas. Enough bottles must have been put to use during this tour that at least one cosmetics company is safe during the recession.

There are screens on each side of the stage which pulse in sync with the music, with strobe lights attached. The bass thumps so hard and so persistently into the audiences’ chests that it seems that the band is hell-bent on physically splitting everybody in two, Indeed, we have only got as far as the support act. Supporting soloist Jayce Lewis spurts ‘welcome to the Dead Son Rising tour, with Gary. Fucking. Numan.’ to much applause.

Twenty-minutes later, everybody realizes that the set isn’t just a welcome or a warm-up, but a warning. This is going to be loud. Gary takes to the stage after a minute or so of a deep drone and hiss, against a backdrop of static on a huge screen before launch into early classic Down In The Park. The visuals alone speak many words, showing plainly just how drastically his style has changed. Throughout the night, the show is set against demonic images and footage of terrorism and flaming crucified women. Just lovely.

The spectacular light show continues, insisting on blinding everybody. The performance itself is very difficult to flaw. The majority of tonight’s set is plucked from his latest albums, and that’s not to say that it isn’t brilliant, but there is still a degree of awkwardness. Had he been a man forever devoted to his current genre, his set may have bordered on perfection, but those who had come for his ye olde hits remain unsure. On more than one occasion, songs get an awkward applause before the end of the song, as quite a few spectators are unsure of whether the song is over. The only notable gripe that the man himself can be faulted for isn’t even his music, but his rare interaction with everybody, limited to the odd ‘thank you’ every few songs.

Still, Gary is impressively animated without making a fool of himself (a rarity for a 53-year-old man) blitzing across the stage, punching the air and writhing, as he is absorbed in his music. It takes until the encore for his biggest hits, Cars and Are ‘Friends’ Electric to surface. These closing tracks were particularly explosive, having been given a darker twist in recent years, and they sound better than ever. As he soaks in the audience’s screaming he is even more enthusiastic than he has been all night.

It’s been 32 years since his career first took off, but his dark charm has refused to leave.

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