HMV Picturehouse, Edinburgh, 26 Nov
This article is from 2009.
Genuine innovators who also become successful in their own lifetime are pretty hard to come by. Gary Numan not only wrenched the synthesizer from the grasp of the neo-classicist aesthetic of prog and retoolled a generation of artists disillusioned with the musical shortcomings of punk; he also managed to get singles in the charts too. 1979 album The Pleasure Principle (the fans’ favourite, and showcased in full tonight) and the single ‘Cars’ were both number 1 in the UK and big hits in the US.
There’s certainly a poetic circularity in Numan influencing Trent Reznor, Marilyn Manson and Al Jourgensen, whose work in turn inspired Numan’s mid-90s rebirth. Hearing the eerie, utopian, androgynous urgency of this 30-year old album delivered by modern Numan’s industrial masculine persona doesn’t jar at all, as it might do – although some key historical elements (the signature violin on ‘Complex’) are simply not there. In fact, the industrial-era second half of the set provides a real lift, aided by phenomenally good lighting design and peppered with great reinterpretations of back catalogue tracks including set highlight ‘Down In The Park’.