Gary Numan. Middlesborough Empire. 17.3.18

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Having released 20 albums in 39 years, Gary Numan has come to symbolise many things; workaholic, sonic disruptor, game-changer to mention a few.

Perhaps more inspiring than the level of his output, however, Numan is proof that through dedication, talent and perseverance, music has the ability to transform unconfident, shy, young adults from unprivileged backgrounds into artists who’s work can make a huge dent in modern culture and the soundtrack to a generation.  True to his punk/new wave roots, Numan’s career is proof that a person’s future really is unwritten.

Almost a fortnight on from his 60th, and touring in support of recent concept album ‘Savage’, Numan shows no sign of slowing his work rate or short playing the ambitions of his work.

Intense, energetic and thought-provoking, Numan and his four-piece band charge into tonight’s performance with total commitment, an intensity which is aesthetically supported by a blackened, menacing, stage design which adds intensity and menace.

Cleverly pushing the live guitar and drums to the front of the mix, Numan chooses to create a sound which strays away from a polished, electronic pop, feel and is more aligned with a NIN/Manson styled thrash guitar/alternative sound.  It’s a mix that gives the show an aggressive, claustrophobic, edge.

‘Savage’s’ lead single ‘My name is Ruin’ (the standout track tonight) benefits the most from this mix; the soundtrack providing a forceful backing to damaging lyrics (“my name is ruin, my name is broken, my name is shameless, I’ll tear you wide open”); if the lyrics aren’t doing the tearing then the song’s volume and the singers’ spiteful delivery certainly are.

Numan classics ‘Cars’ and ‘Are “Friends” Electric’ are given, as expected, the loudest cheers of the night by the packed-out Empire.

As ‘Savage’, and now his live show, have both proven, Gary Numan continues to look for new sounds and new ways to push his music forward.  Ambitious and inspiring.

Credit for artistry must also be given to support trio, Nightmare Air, which includes Dave Dupuis, Numan’s tour Manager and Front Of House sound engineer.  Known already as hard-hitting shoegazers, what is more evident in a live setting is just how well they blend their wall of guitars with pop synths and layered male-female vocals.  They aim, and deliver, something very original.

 

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