Monday, 23 May 2011

Gig Review: Gary Numan.

14 MAY 2011

If anybody out there had any doubt whatsoever that without Gary Numan the electronic music landscape would be unrecognizable today – then all that nameless person would have to do to be irrevokably convinced would be to have headed towards and gained entry to Gary Numan his own bad-ass self performing his seminal 1979 album The Pleasure Principle in its entirety; authentically re-constructed, to boot. This is the show I saw on the 14th of May – a soggy autumn Saturday evening, and the excitement level of my fellow attendees was cranked to eleven and beyond.

Opening band Severed Heads, one of the founders of the Australian electronic music scene, came out of self-imposed retirement for the express purpose of supporting this tour. Basically two blokes (one of whom was main man Tom Ellard) on keyboards and a loop machine with a projection screen behind them (on which grotesque computer-generated images seemingly created in the early days of digital graphics played), Severed Heads' sound was all spidery and jittery synths married with a disco drumbeat and bizarre sound effects and vocal distortions. The techno-flavoured music filled the ornately decorated expanse of the Forum Theatre, which was only half-filled with punters, who seemed only slowly to be getting into it. Sadly, it wasn't until their last song that Ellard said, "Well, here it is. The song you've been waiting for us to play," before launching into their best-known track, 1984's "Dead Eyes Opened." Suddenly, everybody on the dance floor began dancing, and the energy level spiked.

At 10.15, Gary Numan came out to play. The Forum was filled to capacity, and as soon as the opening notes of "Airlane" hit the crowd went fucking bonkers. True to promise, not only did he play the entire Pleasure Principle album in its entirety, it was played authentically, meaning there were no "improvements" (as if that's possible) or updated means of playing the music, or "re-mixes" or "re-imaginings." There was Gary and four other blokes on the stage. Four synthesizers. A set of drums. And the euphoria that can only be described by hearing Mr Numan and company play live one of the most important albums in existence period.

I'm telling you: the music was positively alive there in the expanses of the old Forum Theatre. The synths were crisp and exact, the drumming was dynamic and lively, and Numan's voice pierced the darkness with an immediacy and verve; it still resounded and sounded as fresh as it did when the needle first met the grooves of the vinyl way back when I got the album in 1985 as a fourteen-year-old scrawny brat.

The crowd lapped it up, looking as happy and contented as I've ever seen an audience be. There was the general feeling that this was more an event than merely a show; the euphoria was quite infectious and addictive and palpable! Punters held their bottles aloft as they sang along to such infectious classics such as "Conversation" ("WE ARE NOT GODS / AND WE ARE NOT MEN …") and "M.e.," which, being my favourite track off the album, was just freaking brilliant. What's that? Did the crowd go crazy when "Cars" played? You bet your sweet ass they did! And thus did Set #1 come to a close.

Set #2 was selections from the old (namely, 1978's Replicas) and the new (Jagged and Pure mostly). Kicking things off with the chilly and oddly spooky "Down In The Park," the second set of the evening allowed Gary Numan and his merry band of men to express the rockier and more industrial side of Numan's oeuvre. Chunky-ass guitars, heavy beats, and throbbing bass exemplified a rather meta-moment in Numan's show – Numan taking and perfecting a genre of music that owed its very existence to Numan's music in the first place. As my wife C. said to me during "Haunted": "Nine Inch Nails was inspired by him, no?" And we all know the answer to that. 2300 die-hard Numan fans with love and respect in their eyes and movements collectively lost their shit when Numan, bearing a mischievous grin, broke into "Are 'Friends' Electric?"

Damn right, Gary. The world of electronic pop music wouldn't be recognizable today without your prescience and forward-minded assault on the senses we know now as The Pleasure Principle. An absolutely enchanting evening.

down in the park
the fall
when the sky bleeds
everything comes down to this
are 'friends' electric?
a prayer for the unborn
i die: you die

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