Gary Numan – Nottingham Rock City, Wednesday December 2.
After touring with Telekon in 2006 and Replicas in 2008, it was only logical that Gary Numan should turn his attention to 1979’s The Pleasure Principle: his third album, and the first release under his own name. On the penultimate date of their autumn tour, Numan and his band devoted the first half of their set to a complete run through of the album, in its original track sequence.
Guitars were banished from the line-up, in favour of a synth-dominated sound that remained faithful to the original. With four keyboard players on stage, including Numan himself, the album’s somewhat thin production sound received a significant boost. The only snag lay in the running order, which worked in favour of the stronger songs on Side One, and to the detriment of the weaker material on Side Two.
The set hit a high point with a glorious three-song run: Complex (dedicated to the late Paul Gardiner, Numan’s original bassist), Films (as sampled by several hip hop artists, including Nottingham’s P Brothers), and M.E. (best known for providing the killer riff on the Basement Jaxx’s Where’s Your Head At). But as for Cars – one of Numan’s unassailable classics – its impact was diminished by the two similar-sounding tracks which preceded it, resulting in a curiously muted reception.
For the second half of the set, the synths were wheeled off and the guitars were brought in, as the band reverted to the grinding industrial rock which has characterised their work over the last decade. Interestingly, it was the newer material which galvanised the crowd, who roared along with every word – proving (if proof were even needed) that artistically speaking, Numan is in no way a spent force.
A reworked version of Are ‘Friends’ Electric closed the main set, combining soft piano sequences with raucous stadium chants. (Bellowing along with the central synth riff is evidently common practice at Numan gigs.) It provided a fittingly climactic end to a truly superb show, from one of synth-pop’s great survivors.