Mike Atkinson

Gary Numan: Replicas tour, Nottingham Rock City, Wednesday March 5

Posted in gigs, Nottingham Post, Rock City by Mike A on March 6, 2008

At most shows, there’s something both distracting and annoying about the inevitable sea of phone screens, wafting above the heads of the crowd. At last night’s re-creation of Replicas – Gary Numan’s 1979 breakthrough album, which famously deals with themes of alienation in an increasingly mechanised world – the phenomenon seemed almost appropriate, as if the phone-wielders could only experience the show at one remove.

In a rare concession to nostalgia, the album was performed in full, albeit in a different track sequence, and augmented by sundry B-sides and outtakes from the same period. Considering the critical panning that Replicas was given at the time, the songs held up magnificently, sounding as fresh and as relevant as ever.

As for Numan, who turns fifty on Saturday, middle age had not dimmed his singular and remarkable charisma in any respect, the cragginess of his face somehow serving to accentuate that essential other-ness. More crucially, his absolute belief in the old material – the anthemic Down In The Park, the helpless Me I Disconnect From You, the prophetic We Are So Fragile – was palpable, and helped to fuel a truly compelling performance.

Three decades ago, the rock snobs dismissed Numan as an opportunistic Bowie copyist, whose fluked fame would quickly fade. How wrong they were. Thirty years on, with his reputation fully restored and his influence widely acknowledged, the last laugh belongs not to the cracked actor who fell to earth, but to the authentically angst-driven alien who came in from the cold.

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