“You’re too young to be here!” was the first thing said to me upon arriving at the O2 Academy last Saturday night to see Gary Numan. Indeed, the tour marks the 40th anniversary of Numan’s career as a soloist—a date that long predates my birth. Whilst Numan enjoyed his heyday in the 1980s, following the release of his album ‘The Pleasure Principle’ in 1979, his back catalogue still continues to shape much of synth music, as well as inspire the post-punk and goth scene that still stands in Leeds.
For a fan of his early material, the show felt slightly alienating: opening with the 2018 track ‘My Name is Ruin’, his setlist went on to push his new style and material to the forefront. Whilst his early works sweetly balanced eeriness with pop-y melodies, the later tracks and their brash, guitar-heavy delivery leant towards nu metal, with no shortage in tack. The branding of the tour echoed this mainstream metal/goth pastiche, with vapid graphics and a too-intense light show.
The hits weren’t completely absent, however. Numan peppered the set with his well-known synth-pop bangers, from ‘Cars’ to ‘Down in the Park’, which were only slightly tainted by the fuzzy guitar work. Towards the end of the evening, Numan performed ‘Are Friends Electric?’ by Tubeway Army, which served as a nice reminder of his strength as a musician.
Musical taste and stylistic preferences aside, Gary Numan put on an impressive show; his dance moves were as sharp and campy as ever, his stares as dramatic and his voice untouched by age. Beyond the deterioration in style, Numan’s character and performance showed that he’s still got it after all.
Header Image Credit: O2 Academy Leeds