ARCHIVED: Gary Numan//Hammersmith Apollo – 28/11/14
*browsing the depths of my drafts I found this, the gig was back in November & the review got lost in the email vortex, it’s massively delayed, and a bit irrelevant by this point, but I figured I’d post it up and anyhow, if everyone enjoyed Gary Numan as much as I did that wouldn’t be a problem anyway*
When Gary Numan is mentioned, the general image that springs to the mind of most is the motionless man, appearing as slicked back and robotic as the lost member of Kraftwerk, stood behind a small synth singing eerily about robot prostitution or his car. What is less considered is his modern day onstage persona, a furious ball of energy thrashing about his Les Paul to sub basses and industrial noise so when his homecoming show was announced to end both the campaign for his nearly-surprisingly brilliant & successful recent album, ‘Splinter (Songs From A Broken Mind)’, and to celebrate 35 years since his seminal releases, ‘Replicas’ and ‘The Pleasure Principle’, the fusion of both the above was always going to make for an interesting live experience, and one that was not likely to disappoint.
Before quite getting onto that though, legendary 80s post-punkers Gang Of Four were up to support to an already packed out Apollo and put on a phenomenal show in their own right.
Losing a frontman is always a tricky business, and with the only original member left guitarist Andy Gill, there was an essence of doubt towards the outfit, but within 2 minutes the outfit hit their stride and were tearing through ‘Return The Gift’ sounding as impressive as they did 35 years ago. Frontman John Sterry provided a new lease of life with his frantic jolting around the stage and spot on vocals while the band did the best they could to convince everyone it was 1979 with funk fused basslines and chiming sharp guitars, a mostly successful feat. Standout of the set was undoubtedly Love Like Anthrax, involving Gill repeatedly picking up and throwing his guitar from side to side of the stage giving Sterry’s vocals a wall of feedback to conquer, closely followed by He’d Send In The Army, which saw a microwave wheeled out to be repeatedly battered by Sterry with a wooden stick in order to produce an earsplitting beat that when noticed has the potential to be featured on every dubstep track of 2015. Closing with the ever brilliant ‘Damaged Goods’ the oufit’s set was short but ultimately very sweet, and proved to be just as good today as it was 30 years ago.
Next up, after the most nervewracking wait of all time for the mass of fans at the front querying why he could be late and maybe that his voice had finally given up (12 hours prior to the show, he had surprisingly lightheartedly announced he had no voice and was undergoing a multitude of doctor’s orders), Numan emerged onstage admist a cloud of dry ice and pounding synths and burst into life with latest Splinter monster, ‘Everything Comes Down To This’ without a hint of vocal – or otherwise – suffering about it. After a brief apology and a lot of doubt for a genuinely unnoticeable vocal problem to anyone around, Numan and his 4 piece band cast aside any worries this wasn’t going to be his top form by crashing through rarely aired favourite ‘Me! I Disconnect From You’ sending everyone on a journey of synth fueled heaven.
From there on in, Numan jolted between heavier industrial edged and tortured bass driven cuts from Splinter and 2009’s Dead Son Rising, and the classic signature tracks of his starting points, including another rarely heard brilliance in the form of Tubeway Army‘s ‘We Are So Fragile’, making for enough to enthral every person in the packed out Apollo instantly. With the sheer intensity of the show, bringing with it incredible musicians and some even better interpretive dance from Numan himself, highlights were thick and fast, but natural standouts had to come from the combination of ‘Cars’ and the haunting ‘Down In The Park’ – both of which every crowd member desperately tried to dance to, harder than it looks – only preceeded by modern forms of impressive, ‘Dead Son Rising’ and ‘The Fall’, both with intense breakdowns proving the previous master of synth can still do EDM better than any DJ out there, and thankfully so.
Closing the set came another slice of ’80s singalong brilliance in ‘I Die:You Die’ before the bass heavy ‘Love Hurt Bleed’ gave one final burst of ingenious modern noise and the sweetly synth tinged ‘My Last Day’ was left to leave the crowd reeling in euphoria.
Naturally after the endless deafening football chants of “Numan” and several failed mexican waves, the man re-emerged alone armed with an acoustic guitar – an extremely rare and befuddling sight for most- and after a solid five minutes of being unable to get a word out due to the continuing screams of appreciation from the crowd, a moment Numan humbly laughed off, his thanks were given – further vocal apologies made (not that anyone could still hear anything wrong) and he launched into Tubeway Army’s sweetly innocent “Jo The Waiter’ – a tale of reminiscence rarely played in 35 years but once again enough to send cheers ring out across the Apollo. After one final burst of his modern capabilities in ‘A Prayer For The Unborn’, there was only one question left to ask – and with a haunting build up from piano to band and synths at full throttle ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’ hit with force, and after an unforgettably rip roaring rendition from all, the stage was fled. Despite the chants, a second encore materialised in Numan re-emerging to humbly thank everyone for what must have been roughly the tenth time in the last 20 minutes, laughing at his now slightly croaking and sorry for itself voice and quietly slinking off stage as if nothing had ever happened.
If anyone needed anything to reassure themselves Numan is a musical pioneer to be celebrated it was this, the next day proclaimed as his best show to date and biggest since 1981, everyone in the crowd would be inclined to agree – the setlist was all even the most die hard fan could wish for, the performance was untouchable and the man himself still as genuinely nice as ever, you can try and knock him as much as you want but when a night like this occurs, Gary Numan is still very much a genius.