Probably still most recognised for his pop subverting hits ‘Cars’ and ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’, Gary Numan is nevertheless widely accepted to have influenced artists like Damon Albarn, Dave Grohl, Trent Reznor and Marilyn Manson. By 1992 he had released an impressive catalogue of fourteen albums, and another seven over the following 20 years; although none really matching his success of the early eighties. Until now.
Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind) is hot off the presses, having been in the pipeline since 2007, and has already been receiving very positive reviews and charted higher than any of his albums since 1983’s Warriors. The Button Factory meanwhile is filled to capacity with what seem to be mostly old-school fans in their thirties and forties, who probably discovered his music on vinyl. Amazingly, Numan doesn’t look much older than most of them, defying more than half a century with his youthful appearance and energetic performance. Wearing a plain dark t-shirt, ripped jeans and Doctor Martin boots, he seems comfortable, humble and happy to be here.
The show starts with blinding strobe lights, smoke and atmospheric blue spotlights illuminating the empty stage. Ultraviolet lights and a large LED screen backdrop with psychedelic displays set an industrial/techno vibe which accompanies the electronic music forged by Numan. He and his five uncredited fellow musicians perform most of Splinter and a handful of classics from his early years, including ‘Metal’ and ‘Down in the Park’ – covered by Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson respectively. Numan plays the keyboards and a Gibson Les Paul guitar (the type first given to him by his father at age 15 and regarded to be his most treasured possession), while his bandmates also play guitars, keyboards, drums and a seldom-seen keytar. The sound quality in the venue is loud and clear, completing a near perfect audio/visual production.
The audience, while not always hugely animated, are obviously enjoying the show immensely; applauding and cheering loudly at every opportunity. Chants of “Nu-man, Nu-man, Nu-man” erupt frequently. One witty fan was even heard chanting “Gearoid Fearr Nua”. Predictably, the three song encore consists of Numan’s most famous tracks, followed by ‘My Last Day’; the closing track from Splinter. While sounding unmistakeably of the era, the classics are still as infectious as ever and get the Button Factory rocking as Numan basks in the adoration of hundreds of “Numanoids” who have remained faithful to his work for over three decades and are now being rewarded for their loyalty. An awesome performance from an enduring artist.
Photo: Olga Kuzmenko – see more in our photo special here