Gary Numan @ O2 Academy Brixton
The widespread influence of Gary Numan in modern music is perhaps best illustrated by the variety
of genres played over the house sound system as throngs of fans fill the Brixton Academy on
Saturday night; these include airy synth-pop, haunting goth rock and pounding industrial metal.
Whilst other bands may have toyed with the idea of introducing synthesisers into their music, he
was the first to achieve such widespread success, claiming three consecutive UK chart topping
albums (Replicas, The Pleasure Principle and Telekon). The synth-laden rock that won him this early
success has since given way to a darker, more industrial form of music with parts of the recently
release Savage: Songs From a Broken World not sounding unlike something that you would expect to
hear from Nine Inch Nails.
The night’s support takes the form of Jayce Lewis, who Numan has taken out on previous tours.
Lewis’s sound seems well-suited to venue, with the band’s pounding drums and distorted guitars
sounding huge. However, the music itself tends to meander at times, with vocal lines often
becoming somewhat repetitive; as a result, it feels like the instrumentals carry some of the songs.
With Numan choosing to take Lewis out on tour again, as well as publicly praising the Welshman,
one feels that perhaps there is a side to Lewis’s music that we’re not quite getting tonight.
If Lewis sounded huge, then Gary Numan sounds huger. Walking to the stage with chants of
“NUMAN!” ringing around the Brixton Academy, he kicks off his set with ‘Ghost Nation’ – the
opening track from his new album. With a large portion of the setlist being given over to the new
album, it becomes clear over the course of the evening that the new material fits perfectly with the
large venues that Numan is playing – the singalong choruses sounding at times cathartic, at times
triumphant. The stage production that accompanies the show matches this, with a spectacular
lightshow that turns the night into a sort of psychedelic industrial carnival.
The set is packed with highlights, with tracks taken from both his early years and his more recent
work. ‘The Fall’ sounds like something that Trent Reznor could have written for Pretty Hate Machine,
‘Love Hurt Bleed’ turns the Academy into a massive pulsing industrial dance party, and singalong set
closer ‘Are ‘Friends’ Electric?’ leaves every face beaming.
Over the course of the evening, Numan doesn’t say too much, apart from a few shows of gratitude
to his fans – something that you probably hear from every artist that you go to see, but from Numan
it seems truly heartfelt. This lack of crowd interaction may be considered a shortcoming in some
other performers, but his fans are undoubtedly fine with this, as it means that Numan gets to fit
more music into his set and they don’t have to listen to some rehearsed spiel. In a time when many
stage performers rely on elaborate props or gimmicks to draw the crowd into the show, Numan’s
performance feels original, authentic – unashamedly Gary Numan – and this is why his fans love him.
Photo credit: Gigslutz