Still arguably best known to much of the general public for his 1979 chart-destroying smash hit single Cars, British singer Gary Numan has in fact been a continuingly brilliant creative force within the worlds of rock and electronic music ever since that moment thrust him into the public consciousness. Now touring in support of his twenty-first studio album Savage (Songs from a Broken World), we went to Manchester to catch one of British music’s most iconic figures in action.
Looking at tonight’s opener Jayce Lewis (8.5) it’s difficult not to immediately envisage a younger Numan, such is the similarity in their appearance. No stranger to collaborating with tonight’s headliner either, having done so multiple times both live and on record since 2011, the Welshman and his band tonight take to the stage flanked by large metal lighting towers bearing his name. Musically, it’s a slightly different affair, as Lewis and his band unleash a striking set of their ‘punk-industrial’ songs to a packed out room that seem more than up for it. Lewis himself proves an excellently charismatic frontman, despite the occasional abrasiveness of his output, gleefully asking the crowd on several occasions if they’re “ready for Mr Gary Fucking Numan”, before dropping back into one of his many synth-driven tracks, which tonight seem to take on a far more metallic guise than their recorded versions and provide a wonderfully heavy, yet still-melodic, introduction to the evening. Thankfully, the crowd seem very much on-side too, and Jayce Lewis can safely leave knowing full-well he’s gained himself a horde of new fans on this occasion.
If there’s one word that could describe the performance of Gary Numan (9) tonight, it’d be simply ‘hypnotic’. Despite being almost 40 years on from the release of his beloved solo debut The Pleasure Principle, the electronic pioneer has continued to pump out album after album of impressive and increasingly heavy material as time as gone on, most recently with this year’s PledgeMusic-aided Savage (Songs from a Broken World), his twenty-first studio album. As Numan takes to the stage tonight, the response is nothing short of spectacular, and he and his band waste no time in ploughing straight into the sweepingly cinematic Ghost Nation, swiftly followed up by fan-favourite Metal – to which, the entire building seems to erupt in cheers and singing.
This sheer sense of adoration seems to be a constant theme throughout Numan’s entire performance tonight in fact, as each track seems to gain increasing amounts of love as time goes on; to the visible delight of the man himself and his band. Of course, having had a career spanning such a long period of time, there’s plenty of variety across tonight’s set too, with everything from new tracks like My Name Is Ruin and Bed Of Thorns, to classic staples like Are ‘Friends’ Electric? and the all-conquering electronic juggernaut that is Cars. It’s testament to Numan’s prowess as a singer too that each number sounds uniquely powerful in its own way, the frontman’s iconic voice cutting straight through the mix on every track, enthralling the evening’s crowd with that inimitable crooning tone. As the evening draws to a close with the aforementioned Are ‘Friends’ Electric?, it really seems to show on the faces of everyone present just how much fun tonight’s set has been. Gary Numan may well be decades into his career by now, but he leaves tonight having proven exactly why he’s enjoyed such longevity – nothing short of remarkable talent, and some of the most important songs in electronic music.