Saturday, March 07, 2009

Gary Numan at The Enmore

Review of last night's gig below. I'm not sure if it was 1979 or 1980 when I heard Cars on the radio, and I know Triple J back then was Double J, but this (below) is a first draft review written late at night without the luxury of fact-checking.

This youtube clip is, as far as I can tell, the original version of Are Friends Electric. I think around the same time I was into Mi Sex, Ultravox, Debbie Harry's Blondie, Bowie (natch) and ACDC. See? I have always lacked focus.

I was very impressed with what Gary Numan did last night. I've seen none of the other artists I just mentioned except for Bowie twice. Laurie Anderson was to come a year or two later and then live around 20 years after that. I also remember The Church around the same time. It kept going, I kept hearing new stuff that had a big impact. Mixed bag.

But hearing Numan in a bland suburb on my shitty radio in my grandparents' house... it was a memorable moment. What the fuck is this? I wondered, cranking the volume. Next day at school, about three or four of us were all oh my God did you heard that song Cars on the radio yesterday? The rest looked at us like we were freaks.

Happy times, last night. Numan is gruntier with the same soaring synths. The guitar playing was masculine, and Gary knew the crowd loved him. I never knew he could smile such a high beamer.

Anyway, I know it's not everyone's music, but for me it's stirring music. It's electronic and it's like he was always going for escape from emotion or something, stripped wires and sterility, but there's actually shitloads of emotion in there.

I had a fucking great time last night.


Indulge me for a couple of seconds... back in the late seventies when I was (probably not) doing my homework, Triple J played Gary Numan’s Cars. Everything stopped for me because this was a sound I’d never heard before. It was lush synth, rich, layered with some kind of detached yearning in the lyrics. I think my friends were into The Angels at the time (they were good too) but for me, Numan was where everything was heading.

It’s been more years than I’d like to think since that afternoon, but Gary Numan was in town and I wondered if he still had that thing. Most recent album I listened to was Hybrid, a blend of his ethereal electric synth and gutsy rawness of Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails. I liked it a lot.

So how was the 50 year old guy who wanted to do punk but discovered the synthesiser keyboard and went electro-goth instead? Pretty fucking awesome, actually. He’s said he wasn’t going to do his old stuff, but he did do his old stuff. He just twisted it in gutsy style with some of the most muscular guitar work you’re likely to hear.

Support band Pivot did an admirable job. I’d not seen them before but they were good. Drummer was exciting, vocals were ordinary but willing, and the guy on the lap top and mixer was pretty fucking funny in how much he was putting into it. From now on, I type my reviews with Beethovenesque flourishes.

But Numan, baby. One old one, one new one, one old one new one. The nostalgia freaks had a blast with tracks like Down In The Park, and oh my God the impromptu singalong to Are Friends Electric was just beautiful. I caved and smiled a lot and also joined in.

Numan was flanked by two synth players and two guitar guys, one kick-arse drummer behind. His voice was as fresh as it was a thousand years ago. He prowled the stage, played guitar, and sang his songs with very obvious enjoyment, whether in that detached tone or menacing whisper. For me, this was not a nostalgia trip. Numan knows music, knows it has to move forward, and he’s doing an excellent job.


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