Gary Numan at KulturfabrikSupport: Nightmare Air
March 9, 2018 at Kulturfabrik
Some of you may be surprised to learn that Gary Numan has reached the age of 60 earlier this month. All the more surprising is that Gary – contrary to what one may presume of a musician 40 years into his career – is very much alive and kicking. His latest album Savage (Songs from a Broken World) released in September of 2017, reached the top spot on the UK independent album charts upon release, a resounding success for an artist’s twenty-second record made all the more remarkable when one looks back at the songs that made the man’s breakthrough success. For those who may have known Gary Numan from chart-topping hits like ‘Are “Friends” Electric?’ and ‘Cars’, suffice to say that the artist you knew is long gone. The young Hammersmith musician has been reborn, reigniting his career with the success of his most remarkable album since his initial rise to fame.
Long-time fans and a handful of younger folks flocked from across Europe to catch Gary Numan’s show in Esch-sur-Alzette, Luxembourg, one of the only remaining dates off of the Savage tour that didn’t sell out. Though the venue didn’t sell out, it didn’t take long for the room to fill up with a decent crowd of dedicated fans and curious ears.
Stepping to the stage after a performance by Los Angeles Alt-Rock trio Nightmare Air, Gary emerged as a shadow outlined by the glowing, glitchy screens set at the back of the stage, followed by his trusted band, all dressed in dusty, desert scavengers’ outfits. Under the acclamations of an excited crowd, Numan and the gang set the tone of the evening to sounds of thunderous distortion with ‘Ghost Nation’, the anthemic opening track on Savage. Theatrical splendour thus ensued for the next hour and a half, overseen by an ecstatic Gary whose voice and stage presence have only grown stronger with age. Gone are the days when the singer would stiffen with self-awareness; the frontman now writhes and sways his arms and body around freely, backed with the confidence of forty years’ worth of stage experience. Numan knows how to put on a good spectacle, and has made sure even the modest likes of Luxembourg’s Kulturfabrik was ready to accommodate a show worthy of his stature. Along with every song came a set of visuals shown on four separate screens at the back of the stage, adding a cinematic dimension of the show.
The set-list of the night was made up of a near even split between cuts off of the latest album, a mix of songs from the last decade and a half, and a series of old classics from 1979, with some of the songs having been rearranged so as to fit into a more consistent live show experience. With two-thirds of the set-list dedicated to the latter half of Numan’s career, this naturally made way for the singer’s heavier, darker songs to take the lead. Numan’s industrial rock sound detonated and sent shockwaves bouncing off the walls of the venue with songs such as ‘Love Hurt Bleed’, ‘Here in the Black’, ‘Bed of Thorns’ and ‘My Name is Ruin’. ’The Fall’ made for one of the show’s finest moments with its thumping dance beat, distorted bass-lines and synth leads.
The rearrangement of old classics such as ‘Metal’, and ‘Down in the Park’ also made a big impression in the first-half of the set, though not as much as the two songs everyone had been waiting for all evening. Kicking off unexpectedly at the tail-end of ‘My Name is Ruin’, ‘Cars’ immediately sent the audience cheering uncontrollably. Alas, the beefier, more dissonant, but ultimately unconvincing take on the hip, new-wave classic proved to be one of the rare shortcomings of the evening. ‘Are “Friends” Electric?’, on the other hand, was played in a more faithful rendition and made for a ideal closing number before the encore. Returning after the curtain call, the band finished off with another classic, ’Me, I Disconnect from You’, before making the final send-off with ‘A Prayer for the Unborn’, an unexpected but appropriate finale for the night.
Walking away from a show like this, one is sure to shed off any remaining scepticism about Gary Numan’s newfound resurgence on the music scene. While many choose to carry their musical career into their 60s, it is rare to see an artist do so with as much grace and energy as Gary Numan. One can safely presume, judging from the man’s recent output and stage performances, that the legend still has some bright years ahead of him.